In early October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service honored a group of individuals—including DU Regional Biologist Chris Hildebrandt—who played an integral role in recruiting California
farmers and ranchers to enroll more than 100,000 acres into the Wetlands Reserve Program, which helped make this WRP enrollment the highest in the program's history. WRP is a voluntary, non-regulatory, incentive-based program that allows private landowners and working farmers and ranchers to protect and restore wetlands on their property while also removing marginal croplands from production.
"We are commemorating the voluntary conservation work of over 240 private landowners and recognizing those on-the-ground folks from partner organizations who made this milestone happen," said Ed Burton, NRCS state conservationist for California. "With over 100,000 acres enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program, you have made California a national conservation leader."
Hildebrandt expressed his appreciation for the honor, but said DU and NRCS' work in California is far from over. "It is extremely fulfilling when DU's dedicated efforts to encourage private landowners to enroll their land in WRP and assist in the restoration activities pay off," Hildebrandt said. "I am very grateful to NRCS for this award and am thrilled to have played a part in such a wonderful milestone in California conservation. And while it is necessary that we take time to celebrate this major wetland restoration achievement, we must remember that this acreage represents only a small percentage of the wetlands that once existed in California. This milestone is not the finish line, but an important stage for NRCS to reflect on this important accomplishment and reinvigorate DU and other partners' efforts toward the next 100,000 acres of restored wetlands in California."
Ed Burton (right), NRCS California state conservationist, presents DU Regional Biologist Chris Hildebrandt with an award for recruiting California landowners to the Wetlands Reserve