WASHINGTON – Feb. 14, 2013 – The growing risk of native grasslands being converted to cropland was recognized in the U.S. House of Representatives today. Lead co-sponsors Reps. Kristi Noem (SD) and Tim Walz (MN) introduced the Protect Our Prairies Act, H.R. 686, to help protect vital waterfowl and wildlife habitats that have never been farmed.
If passed, the Protect Our Prairies Act would conserve native grasslands by reducing crop insurance for the first four years on newly broken native sod or grasslands. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill could save taxpayers nearly $200 million over 10 years.
“Ducks Unlimited applauds this common sense legislation that will save taxpayers money and slow the rapid loss of our native grasslands,” DU CEO Dale Hall said. “The Protect Our Prairies Act essentially makes crop insurance payouts proportional to the productivity of the land.”
More than 70 percent of the nation’s native grasslands have already been lost. The rate of loss has been accelerated by unintended consequences of current agriculture policy and advanced technology.
“With more than 48,000 DU members in Minnesota and South Dakota, we really appreciate the work Representatives Noem and Walz are doing to conserve our grasslands and wetlands,” said DU Minnesota chairman David Flink and South Dakota chairman Jeff Heidelbauer. “These are habitats that are critical to our hunting heritage as well.”
The hunting industry supports 163,000 jobs combined in the co-sponsors’ home states. Outdoor recreation opportunities contributed $145 billion to the U.S. economy in 2011, according to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey.
"Coming from a state that has both a strong hunting tradition and agriculture community, this legislation helps continue the healthy balance between production and conservation," said Rep. Noem. "I was proud to introduce this legislation last Congress and am optimistic that we will see the bill move forward this year. Not only will it save taxpayer money, but the Protect our Prairies Act will allow us to maintain secure habitats for wildlife in South Dakota."
“The Protect Our Prairies Act accomplishes priorities for sportsmen, taxpayers and farmers,” said Walz, who was recently named Vice Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “By working together and promoting common sense conservation practices we can protect critical wildlife habitat, support our farmers, and support the hunting and fishing industry that is an integral part of Minnesota’s economy.”
Other original co-sponsors of H.R. 686 include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Bob Latta (OH), Collin Peterson (MN), Bennie Thompson (MS) and Rob Wittman (VA). Reps. Latta, Thompson, Walz and Wittman represent the full House leadership on the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and Rep. Peterson is the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.
The bill was originally introduced by the bipartisan pair in the 112th Congress but it was not brought up for a vote of passage.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org. Connect with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/DucksUnlimited, follow our tweets at twitter.com/DucksUnlimited and watch DU videos atyoutube.com/DucksUnlimitedInc.