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Potholes in Peril

New threats to prairie wetlands could mean big trouble for duck populations
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Biologists have looked at what this could mean for duck hunters and have concluded that the continued loss of small wetlands in the Dakotas and Prairie Canada, and subsequent mallard population declines, could result in a greater frequency of more restrictive waterfowl harvest regulations in the future. Put simply, widespread wetland drainage would create the equivalent of a permanent drought in the Duck Factory, suppressing duck populations below the levels we've enjoyed for nearly two decades.

The solution is to maintain strong public policies that discourage wetland drainage and to continue to fund wetland restoration programs in both the United States and Canada. Duck hunters and other conservationists should be aware of the stakes and let their elected officials know that effective wetland protections must be included in the next Farm Bill, and that wetland restoration programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act must be funded at effective levels. 

In addition, DU and its partners must accelerate the acquisition of perpetual wetland and grassland easements on the prairies. Once under easement, wetlands are protected regardless of market forces and public policies, ensuring vital habitat for breeding waterfowl and many other wildlife species in perpetuity. By renewing your DU membership and volunteering for and attending DU fundraising events, you are helping to ensure a secure future for prairie wetlands and other key waterfowl habitats across North America. 

For more information on how you can make your voice heard in support of wetlands and waterfowl, visit www.ducks.org/publicpolicy

Dr. Jim Ringelman is director of conservation programs at DU's Great Plains office in Bismarck, North Dakota.
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