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Prairies Under Siege: The Future of the Prairie Pothole Region

Without aggressive measures to secure its habitat base, North America's duck factory faces an uncertain future
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From insight to action

The British biologist Thomas Henry Huxley had it right when he said, "The great end of life is not knowledge but action." Fortunately, in the PPR, opportunity and knowledge have set the stage for action. Individuals and society are awakening to the importance of prairie wetlands and grasslands. Today, hundreds of ranchers are on waiting lists to sell conservation easements that will permanently protect critical habitat, yet we lack funding and staffing to meet the demand. Thousands of farmers would like to plant their existing cropland to grass under the Greencover Canada and CRP programs. However, eligibility criteria that select properties for CRP qualification are directing CRP away from the PPR in the United States, and Green-cover in Canada suffers for lack of funding. Much of society has come to recognize the value of wetlands for clean water and flood control, yet isolated wetlands have fallen out of legal protection under the U.S. Clean Water Act and have never received adequate protection in Canada. Everybody wants a good quality of life, and natural landscapes are a key element of that desire. Our challenge is translating this knowledge to action.

Clearly, we must pick up the pace. Many landowners are reaching retirement age, and when real estate changes hands, the new owners often consider alternative uses for the land. We need to become more vocal advocates for sound public policies that protect wetlands and grasslands, and we need to increase our personal and financial commitments to prairie conservation. While individual projects continue to be the building blocks of DU's work in the PPR, DU's vision of the final product has expanded greatly over the years. We are reaching for nothing less than securing for all time the waterfowl production capacity of the Prairie Pothole Region. The challenges are daunting, but the goal is achievable. Let's roll.

This article is part four in a four-part series, "Prairies Under Siege." Go back to the beginning.

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