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Ducks Unlimited supports opening land to haying and grazing

WASHINGTON – May 27, 2008 – Ducks Unlimited applauds the Department of Agriculture for their commitment to the viability of the Conservation Reserve Program, by allowing haying and grazing on qualifying CRP lands.  In keeping CRP a practical option for landowners, it reinforces the importance of grasslands to the nation, especially in waterfowl breeding areas.

"This action will provide much needed feed and forage while maintaining the conservation benefits from the nation's premier conservation program," said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer. "Eligible farmers and ranchers will be able to plan for harvest of forage after the end of the primary nesting season this summer."

The land being opened to livestock forage will not be hayed or grazed until after the waterfowl nesting season, which runs in the US from the end of April through June. 

“DU has long said that well managed ranching and duck nesting habitat work well together, and this move underscores how CRP serves both cattle and waterfowl,” said Director of Agriculture Conservation Policy, Barton James. “Using the land in this way is a better deal for ranchers, wildlife enthusiasts and taxpayers than trying to bring marginal cropland into production,”

“Without grass being protected under the Conservation Reserve Program, we would not have the needed reserves to protect grass-based agriculture,” James added

Often called the “holy grail” of conservation programs, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has been extremely successful for breeding waterfowl in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Northern Great Plains. More than 2.2 million waterfowl are produced each year on CRP land in the Prairie Pothole Region.

With loss of native prairie estimated to be at least 3.3 million acres over the next five years, keeping land enrolled in CRP is critical.

“Maintenance of the large expanse of CRP is critical to wildlife populations, but so is keeping a viable ranching industry,” said Director of Conservation Planning for the Great Plains Regional Office, Dr. Scott Stephens.  “Having CRP evolve to continue to work for ranchers is key to maintaining wildlife populations across the PPR.”

In addition to the benefits of CRP land to waterfowl and now cattle herds, the program has also been responsible for thousands of acres of wetlands and uplands that have been critical to mitigating the effects of droughts, like the one that the Great Plains is experiencing now.  Allowing managed haying and grazing on select CRP land will maintain those mitigating qualities, while providing some relief from the dry conditions.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.

Contact: Neil Shader
202-347-1530
nshader@ducks.org
 

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