Ducks Unlimited and partners are expanding restoration work in the bottleneck of the Central Flyway migration corridor that runs from central Kansas through central Nebraska.
A new North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant will help the partners protect, restore or enhance more than 13,000 acres of wetland habitat. This grant extends northward ongoing conservation work to include the Platte River and Loup River Sandhills.
“More than 80 percent of Rainwater Basin wetlands have been lost,” said John Denton, DU manager of conservation programs for Nebraska. “Woody species and other invasive species are chocking shallow wetland areas along the Platte and Loup rivers. Yet, millions of migratory birds still use the remaining wetland habitat in the spring. Habitat restoration on the few remaining wetlands will be critical to these bird populations.”
Along with several projects, the grant will help purchase and perpetually protect 120 acres crucial to the management of a publicly owned Rainwater Basin wetland. Almost 40 percent of the land being conserved is open to the public.
Rainwater Basin Joint Venture (RWBJV) has had a vegetation control program in the RWB for several years that removes dense stands of accumulated plants on both private and publicly owned lands. In partnership with RWBJV, Ducks Unlimited uses its equipment and staff for the disking and spraying enhancement project to control vegetation on 5,400 acres of wetlands. The project disrupts the growth of perennial plants, allowing annual plant species to provide quality foraging habitat for waterfowl during spring migration.
The RWB Watershed Restoration Project will restore several USFWS Waterfowl Production Areas and Wildlife Management Areas by filling unused irrigation pits that catch runoff. Filling pits with compacted soil allows natural runoff to reach shallow marsh habitat and restore the marsh’s hydrology.
Waterfowl on their way to the nesting ground need the habitat to rest and refuel so they reach the northern breeding grounds in good shape. In addition, the area provides migration habitat to 500,000 Sandhilll cranes each spring, which is about 80 percent of the world’s population. The river systems are also migration and nesting habitat for shorebirds and other waterbird species, including the Interior Least Tern and Piping Plover.
Matching funds are provided by Ducks Unlimited, RBJV, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Douglas Frey and the Platte Valley Weed Management Area.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 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
Becky Jones Mahlum