Another important objective of DU’s pintail strategy is to promote wise government conservation policies and agricultural programs in both the United States and Canada. Pintail populations have generally fared better in the U.S. portion of the Prairie Pothole Region in part because of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Through this voluntary program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays landowners to protect wetlands and restore former croplands to grassland under 10- or 15-year contracts. CRP is believed to have contributed to a 30 percent increase in duck production in the Great Plains states and has added millions of ducks—including thousands of pintails—to the fall flight each year.
Currently, 4.7 million acres of former cropland are enrolled in CRP in North and South Dakota alone. But contracts on the majority of this land will expire during the next three to five years, and if CRP contracts are not renewed, most of this productive waterfowl breeding habitat will be returned to annual crop production. Reauthorization of CRP and other waterfowl-friendly programs is a top priority for DU as Congress begins debate on the 2007 Farm Bill.
In Canada, DU is consulting with federal and provincial officials to develop and expand similar programs, such as Greencover Canada, that compensate farmers for conserving wetlands and grasslands through the nation’s Agricultural Policy Framework, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Farm Bill.
Farther north in the western boreal forest and tundra regions of Canada and Alaska, DU is using satellite remote-sensing technology to map vital wetlands and study waterfowl breeding ecology in these areas. DU uses information gathered in these efforts to work with government agencies, industry, and Native groups to protect especially valuable wetlands and to minimize impacts of mining, timber, and oil and gas development on other fragile waterfowl habitats.