Conservation programs in the Prairie Pothole Region
The habitat programs within the PPR which are being delivered by DU, other NAWMP partners and a variety of other government and non-government wildlife agencies, are among the most aggressive on the continent. In excess of 1.6 million ha of critical wildlife habitat have been influenced through our conservation programs in Canada. These programs vary widely in terms of both security and impact, ranging from perpetual protection of critical native habitats through legislation or ownership, to conversion of land use to functions more favorable to wildlife, to stewardship programs that are little more than recognition of landowners who have decided not to alter key wildlife habitat components within their land holdings. In the U.S. PPR, 140,000 ha have been protected or restored by DU. Although wetland restorations, upland management, and intensive techniques like nesting islands and predator exclosures form the majority of U.S. projects, increasing attention is being devoted to protecting intact habitats through conservation easements. Unfortunately, despite the magnitude of these efforts, critical habitats continue to be lost and degraded at a level that surpasses the restoration and protection capacity of our current conservation programs.
A wide array of partners and programs are at work in the PPR. In the U.S., the backbone of habitat secured for waterfowl is provided by the USFWS, which owns about 366,000 ha of land in NWRs and Waterfowl Production Areas. State agencies own another 192,000 ha of public Wildlife Areas. A growing component of land protection is wetland and grassland easements, obtained and held mostly by the USFWS. Through 1999, nearly 140,000 ha were protected under grassland easements in North and South Dakota. Quasi-governmental organizations such as the North Dakota Wetlands Trust are actively cost-sharing habitat restoration projects. National and local non-profit conservation organizations are securing important parcels of habitat, although at nowhere near the scale of the agencies. DU works in collaboration with these agencies and organizations under the umbrella of the NAWMP joint ventures, in this case the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV). As of 1999, the PPJV has protected 226,081 ha, restored 90,327 ha, and enhanced 230,104 ha in the U.S. PPR.
Agricultural programs continue to shape the landscape of the PPR. In addition to CRP, the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) has facilitated the protection and restoration of many wetland habitats in Minnesota and Iowa. The opportunity exists to expand WRP in these states. After leveraging with other state funding sources like Re-invest In Minnesota, the state was able to convert short-term WRP easements to perpetual easements, allowing the permanent protection of wetlands. There is a need to develop similar programs in the Canadian prairie.
In Canada, conservation partnerships are equally important. Through partnerships such as NAWMP, DU has secured over 490,000 ha of wetland and uplands. Provincial wildlife agencies and other non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) currently control an additional 830,000 ha.