In addition, DU partners with farmers to enhance waterfowl habitat on working agricultural lands. For example, rice fields provide vital food resources for wintering waterfowl in the MAV, as well as along the Gulf Coast and in the Central Valley of California
. In these rice-producing regions, DU helps farmers implement best management practices to enhance waterfowl habitat on rice lands and improve farm profitability, water quality, and other environmental conditions.
As in all of DU's work, public policy will play a key role in meeting the objectives of the America's River Initiative. DU's top policy priorities include a five-year Farm Bill
with adequate funding for conservation programs such as the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
, legislation that would make enhanced tax incentives for donated conservation easements permanent, and reauthorization and full funding of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
These policies have direct impacts on DU's conservation delivery. Through WRP, Ducks Unlimited has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and private landowners to reforest and restore hydrology on 239,000 acres of flood-prone former cropland in the MAV. In addition, NAWCA-funded projects have helped improve more than 729,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in this region.
Sound science and conservation planning round out the America's River Initiative. Using the latest geospatial data and analysis tools, DU has mapped the MAV's remaining forested wetlands and created a regional flood frequency model. The resulting landscape assessment has identified approximately 2.4 million acres of flood-prone agricultural land and another 5.4 million acres of frequently flooded bottomland hardwood forest. While these landscapes have little value for agriculture or other commercial uses, they provide important habitat for wintering waterfowl and other wildlife. DU is using this flood frequency model and other conservation planning tools to carefully target wetland restoration and land protection efforts throughout the MAV.
In keeping with DU's continental conservation objectives
, donations to the America's River Initiative will also support important waterfowl breeding habitat conservation work in the Prairie Pothole Region and Western Boreal Forest
. The majority of North America's waterfowl are raised in these high-priority breeding areas, including many of the mallards and pintails that duck hunters pursue in the MAV. Contributions to DU's America's River Initiative will help ensure that flocks of greenheads and sprig—and the incomparable experience of hunting them in the MAV's iconic flooded timber and rice fields—can be enjoyed for generations to come. For more information about how you can support the America's River Initiative, visit the DU website at ducks.org/DUinitiatives
Andi Cooper is a communications specialist at DU's Southern Regional Office in Ridgeland, Mississippi.