By Gildo Tori
DU works hand in hand with farmers and ranchers to find conservation solutions that benefit both agriculture and waterfowl
Have you ever wondered where that mallard drake over your decoys came from? Or where those high-flying Canada geese might be headed on a cold, moonlit night? Most waterfowlers like to ponder where the birds have been, where they are going, and the habitats and haunts they frequent throughout the year. Such mysteries certainly add to our fascination with ducks and geese.
Today, scientific studies reveal much about the birds’ seasonal movements and habitat preferences. Banding and satellite transmitter research shows that waterfowl spend considerable time on private land, and often on land that is in agricultural production. That being the case, North America’s farmers and ranchers are some of the best friends that waterfowl and waterfowl hunters have—a fact Ducks Unlimited has long recognized. Although DU’s conservation work on state and federal lands may be better known, DU has a great history of working with farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners.
“Production agriculture is an essential part of the economy and vital to our nation’s security,” says Dr. John R. Anderson, a technology development director for the Monsanto Company and manager of the Monsanto Farm & Wildlife Management Center at Stuttgart, Arkansas. “The future of agriculture and wildlife depends on our ability to utilize the best technology to increase crop production on our most productive farmland, while also providing habitat for wildlife on less productive lands.”
Ducks Unlimited couldn’t agree more with this philosophy, and that’s why we embrace the phrase farm the best, conserve the rest. DU has completed thousands of projects on private land, nearly all of which are in partnership with working farmers and ranchers. Through these partnerships with landowners, DU has conserved more than 1.8 million acres of waterfowl habitat by protecting, restoring, and enhancing wetlands and uplands on private lands. DU biologists have also consulted with landowners and provided technical assistance on more than 3.7 million acres nationwide.
Key federal programs tied to these projects include the conservation provisions of the Farm Bill: the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), among others. In many states, DU works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency to help deliver these important conservation programs. Additionally, North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and other programs administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have restored private-land wetlands and uplands throughout the country and facilitated hundreds of thousands of acres of conservation easements in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) alone, securing land for the long-term needs of both livestock producers and waterfowl.
DU also works closely with agricultural producers, companies, and industry groups like CropLife America (see sidebar) to improve land management and conservation practices on working farmland and provide vital habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.