Top stories for March 2, 2010
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Additional Conservation Reserve Program acreage on the way
Over the weekend, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the first general sign-up for the popular Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) since 2006 and 40,000 additional CRP acres that specifically target waterfowl nesting habitat.
"The first general sign-up in four years is big news for the program," said Scott McLeod, government affairs representative for Ducks Unlimited's Great Plains Regional Office in Bismarck, N.D. "Nearly 6.5 million acres have left the program in the last three years. Another 15.4 million acres will expire by 2012. General sign-ups now and in future years are essential to maintain enrollment near the authorized 32-million-acre maximum enrollment."
The 2008 Farm Bill lowered the maximum number of acres for the program by approximately 7 million acres, from 39 million to 32 million. More than 1.5 million acres have expired since 2007 in the Prairie Pothole Region, one of the most important breeding areas for waterfowl in North America. Prior to the reduction, an estimated 2.2 million waterfowl were added to the annual migration from CRP land.
Bill seeks to protect Atlantic Flyway habitat
A new proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives would bring improved migratory waterfowl habitat in the Atlantic Flyway.
U.S. Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware introduced the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2010, which would coordinate habitat restoration efforts throughout the watershed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would oversee the program, which would rely on on-the-ground conservation and restoration from groups like Ducks Unlimited.
Restoration projects throughout the watershed would help improve the Delaware Bay, a major staging area for 80 percent of snow geese in the Atlantic Flyway. Further, the projects would increase vital habitat for American black ducks that winter in the region.
DU urges Great Lakes restoration
Ducks Unlimited staff from the Great Lakes/Atlantic Region brought their conservation expertise to Washington, D.C., last week to urge lawmakers and administration officials to continue promoting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Gildo Tori, director of public policy for DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office in Ann Arbor, Mich., spoke with lawmakers to encourage continued support for the GLRI, which saw its funding drop dramatically in the 2011 budget request.
"The GLRI is a great initiative, but it is still in its infancy," said Tori. "It needs to have strong support in these first few years to make sure it can reach its potential as a restoration program that brings together federal, state and non-profit partners to conserve habitat on a landscape scale."
Tori also urged legislators to institute stronger policies to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of the invasive Asian carp.
"DU is concerned about the potential negative impact to waterfowl and wetlands, especially with two of the species, grass and black carp," said Tori. "Grass carp can eat their weight in vegetation daily, which over time can have a devastating effect on waterfowl food resources in the Great Lakes."