Other markets for energy crops are also promoting the preservation and restoration of grasslands on the prairies. Cellulosic ethanol faces a number of hurdles related to transport, processing, and production, but if field practices are adopted that leave sufficient residual cover, nesting waterfowl could benefit.
Further along is the worldwide carbon market, which recognizes that protected and restored grasslands capture and store atmospheric carbon. DU has entered into business ventures that protect wetlands and grasslands in exchange for removing carbon from the atmosphere. Several analysts predict that carbon will eventually be the largest commodity market in our nation and indeed the world, and DU is already ahead of that curve.
While conservationists did not get all that waterfowl needed from the 2008 Farm Bill, we remain determined and resilient. Ducks Unlimited will continue to purchase grassland easements, seek donated easements, and encourage waterfowl-friendly crops as well as continue our traditional wetlands restoration work. Energy and carbon markets are already providing more habitat, and these efforts hold great potential for the future. By remaining diligent and by fostering and seizing future opportunities, we will weather this downturn in the Farm Bill sector of our conservation portfolio and capitalize on other opportunities to achieve gains for waterfowl.
Dr. Steve Adair is director of DU’s Great Plains Regional Office in Bismarck, North Dakota.