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Policy News 1.25


Top stories for Nov. 17, 2009
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Habitat losses mount in Prairie Pothole Region

With millions of acres of marginal cropland being removed from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to get down the maximum acreage cap set by the 2008 Farm Bill, the outlook for ducks and landowners is unclear. More than 1.3 million acres of CRP land has left the program in the Prairie Pothole Region alone, an area that once added more than 2.2 million ducks to the fall migration every year from CRP lands alone.

"The cumulative impacts of grassland loss in the Prairie Pothole Region, both CRP and native prairie, at this magnitude, will eventually have significant impacts on waterfowl populations and the number of ducks that hunters see in their decoy spreads," said Scott McLeod, DU Great Plains Government Affairs Representative. "In 2012 alone, North Dakota will lose more than 846,000 acres of CRP."

Nationwide, some 2.7 million acres of CRP, freed from contracts, are already being converted to farmland. Enough acres exited the program this year to fall below the nationwide enrollment cap, which was reduced from 39.2 million acres to 32 million acres in the 2008 Farm Bill.

To get below 32 million acres by October 1, 2010, as mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA offered three or five year contract extensions and 70 percent of the producers accepted. "However, the result was still a significant loss of CRP nationwide and in the Dakotas and Montana," said McLeod.

The USDA is currently in the process of conducting a CRP Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be completed sometime during the fall of 2010. A general CRP sign-up cannot be held until the impact statement is completed.

Ducks Unlimited joins Congress, others to bring tide back for fish, waterfowl

Congressman Dicks, left, dedicating the Nisqually project

A recently completed project on the Puget Sound will bring something to the Nisqually estuary that it hasn't seen in more than 100 years: the tide. More than 12 years after Ducks Unlimited and partners began working on the project at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, the tide has returned, along with 762 acres of restored habitat.

A dedication event featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a portion of the new Nisqually Estuary Trail for public viewing of the restoring estuary. The one-half-mile trail will be part of a longer estuary trail, which will include a boardwalk to be built directly in the estuary in 2010. This will allow visitors to experience the wonders of a restoring estuary first hand.

Congressman Norm Dicks, who attended the ceremony, said, "Restoring fish passage in the Nisqually watershed is the latest development toward improving water conditions in this part of the Puget Sound. We're showing we can recover this area and I'm proud to be playing a role in that recovery." Congressman Dicks has been crucial in funding and rallying support for the project from Congressional colleagues.

The project was funded in part through the popular and effective North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which has restored or protected more than 25 million acres of habitat across North America since 1989.

More waterfowlers uniting behind clean water

Wildfowl magazine has joined the ranks of supporters of sportsmen's efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to millions of geographically isolated wetlands across the country that provide habitat for waterfowl and supply our drinking water.

In supporting legislation to restore those protections, Wildfowl writer Chris Madson makes it clear: "Waterfowlers can't afford to lose another acre of marsh. We need to restore the authority the Corps of Engineers and EPA have exercised over the past 30 years."

Ducks Unlimited and other partners in the conservation and agriculture communities have been working with Congress to restore these protections.

Take action to prevent conservation tool from expiring

Just over six weeks remain for a popular land conservation tool that allows landowners to keep their land and provide critical habitat for waterfowl and wildlife.

Incentives for landowners to enroll their lands in conservation easements and donate those easements to non-profit groups like Ducks Unlimited expire on Dec. 31, unless Congress acts to extend them. Several proposals have been introduced, and many members of Congress are supporting the bills.


Contact your members of Congress today and ask them to keep these critical incentives from expiring!


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