The second and equally important ingredient is the fact that conservation buyers find real value in natural working landscapes that can provide economical and ecological returns. If this were not so, resale of these protected, and often restored, landscapes would not provide cost recovery for the original purchase and restoration. Under such a scenario, it would be a “devolving” land program instead of a “revolving” land program. With the original costs recovered, we then move on to the next property and turn the cycle again. In the wake of this cycle we leave ranchers able to retire debt, able to retire with extra security from the revenue of the sale, or educate their children; preserve and restore landscapes capable of sustaining and growing duck populations; and create opportunities for quality hunting and other outdoor recreation.
One other aspect of this program is particularly important to its ultimate value for waterfowl production (indeed, to a whole suite of wildlife species). Purchase of properties is not arbitrary. Using satellite imagery, long-term waterfowl data, and land-use information, we are able to focus our efforts in the areas of greatest value to waterfowl, and cluster this work around existing protected areas to create large blocks of breeding habitat. Further, by buying entire properties we are able to do more complete wetland/grassland restoration (as opposed to a restored wetland in a sea of cropland).
We certainly haven’t discovered the secrets of cold fusion here (i.e., something for nothing), but this approach will allow DU, along with its partners, to make far more efficient use of hard-earned conservation dollars than would otherwise be possible. So far, 20,234 acres have been protected through this program. And springing from the success of the RLAP in the Coteau, similar approaches are just beginning to blossom in other priority landscapes such as the Rainwater Basin/Platte River ecosystem of Nebraska. You should be hearing a lot more about this program in the future. And who wouldn’t want to know that their conservation dollars are being invested wisely?