Special to The Hays Daily News

To help get the word out about an upcoming enrollment period in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, a series of workshops are being conducted across the state by biologists with Pheasants Forever.

The enrollment period for signing up land in CRP begins May 20 and continues through June 14.

The workshops will be set up to answer questions landowners have about CRP, as well as provide attendees with information on how they can improve their chances of getting accepted through the use of practices beneficial to wildlife. Several of the workshop locations are accepting walk-in customers and appointments to provide one-on-one, site-specific consultations.

Under the program, landowners are paid annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland. Land that is not currently enrolled in CRP can be offered during sign-up if all eligibility requirements are met. Contracts awarded during this general sign-up will become effective Oct. 1.

CRP has been around since it first was included in the 1985 Farm Bill to reduce soil erosion by taking land out of production and establishing permanent cover. At the time, it was estimated that topsoil was being lost at a rate of 3 billion tons per year due to erosion. Today's CRP program has evolved to address issues of water quality, as well as wildlife habitat.

In Kansas, CRP has reduced erosion, improved water and air quality, and provided more than 2 million acres of native grass habitat critical to prairie wildlife, including the lesser prairie chicken.

Area sessions are:

* Atwood -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 21, Rawlins County USDA Service Center.

* Colby -- 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Meadow Lake Golf Course.

* Goodland -- 9 a.m. Mountain time Monday, Sherman County USDA Service Center.

* Great Bend -- 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Kansas Wetlands Education Center.

* Hoxie -- 8 a.m. Tuesday, Midwest Energy Community Room.

* Ness City -- 8 a.m. May 17, Ness County USDA Service Center.

* Norton -- 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 24, Norton County USDA Service Center.

* Oberlin -- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 20, Decatur County USDA Service Center.

* St. Francis -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 22, Cheyenne County USDA Service Center.