Ducks Unlimited supporter Nick Reding and his father have used several conservation tools to revert a 425-acre former farm field outside St. Louis back to a more natural wetland habitat.
The land sits on the banks of the Mississippi River, across from the mouth of the Illinois River. Reding, a St. Louis resident, bought it in 2012 with his father.
“I used to duck hunt on the Mississippi River in front of this property, so I was very familiar with it,” he said.
When the land became available, he and his father bought it with the plan to make it a self-sustaining, multiple use property.
It’s been farmed for generations, but not always successfully. About 250 acres flooded several times a year, resulting in crop insurance claims.
Reding partnered with Ducks Unlimited several times on his property, including establishing a conservation easement on all 425 acres and cost sharing on 30 acres of restoration through the Missouri Agriculture Wetland Initiative program.
“A lot of people have strong opinions on both sides regarding the Farm Bill and conservation,” he said. “But this has taken a flooding crop field and turned it into a highly functional wetland.”
In 2014, he applied for Wetlands Reserve Program funding to restore 200 acres to a more natural wetlands state. The program, now called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, made an immediate difference.
“It makes total sense from a taxpayer standpoint,” Reding said. “Rather than pay me through crop insurance to continue to farm in a place where you can hardly get a crop because of the flooding, you pay me one time to put it back.”
The Farm Bill program changed the future of his former farm. Reding uses interest from the WRP payment to pay for conservation efforts on the 425 acres.
“It feels great as a landowner and as a conservationist, as someone who looks around in every direction and sees significant loss of habitat. This is a significant gain of habitat,” he said.
Between 2012 and 2015, Reding estimates he saw nine turkeys on his property. Today, he regularly sees groups of 15 to 20. Monarch butterflies returned in large numbers. Reding and his family use the land for duck hunting and deer hunting, creating new memories and outdoors opportunities.
“Duck hunting has gotten significantly better,” he said.
“One of the things that drives me crazy is when people say ‘once you lose habitat, it’s gone forever,’” he said. “Fact is, when it's gone it can come back. It takes planning and money, but it can come back.”