BISMARCK, N.D. – Feb. 15, 2014 – Ducks Unlimited applauds USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) increasing its efforts to work with landowners in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) to conserve grasslands and wetlands. Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie announced today that NRCS is committing up to $35 million over the next three years for prairie conservation in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
“We are pleased to see NRCS renewing its commitment to grassland and wetland conservation in the PPR, which is so critical to waterfowl production,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “We’re seeing unprecedented pressures to convert native prairie and drain wetlands. We need to look for new ways to make conservation programs more economically competitive and attractive to landowners.”
Conservation Reserve Program acres have dropped substantially over the last few years and these trends are expected to continue. “This investment by NRCS will keep grasslands and wetlands intact by helping farmers and ranchers conserve working lands for livestock production, hayland and wildlife habitat,” Hall said.
As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, NRCS will offer private landowners a mix of financial and technical assistance opportunities to restore wetlands and grasslands and help mitigate a recent regional trend of conversion to croplands.
The farm bill also includes a “Sodsaver” provision, which reduces crop insurance subsidies for farmers and ranchers who convert native grasslands for crop production.
Thanks to a NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant awarded in 2011, DU and several other project partners are also working on a pilot project in North Dakota to create new carbon credit opportunities for landowners who permanently protect grasslands. The project partners are currently validating this program and hope to have it available to producers in late 2014 to early 2015.