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DU creating new South Platte wetlands for migrating waterfowl

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Wetlands conservation organization buys farm and ranch in northeast Colorado

OVID, CO, Feb. 19, 2008 - Ducks Unlimited is providing more habitat to attract migrating and wintering waterfowl to the South Platte River with the purchase of land in northeast Colorado. The property, located southeast of Ovid, boasts exceptional riverbottom habitat, with mature cottonwoods and a large warm-water slough.

“The riverbottom and adjacent floodplain on the property are already capable of hosting waterfowl, wild turkey and deer,” said Greg Kernohan, program manager for Colorado and Wyoming, “and Ducks Unlimited is excited about the great potential the property offers us to partner with local agricultural producers and water enterprises to move water from the river and create wetlands in the sandhills.”

Jim and Marilyn Fender sold the property to DU because of their shared goal to see the land continue its tradition in working agriculture, but also to be assured the land will leave a legacy for the area. “Our daughters are thrilled that Ducks Unlimited will own the property,” Marilyn Fender said. “They don’t have plans to return to the area to farm, but wanted the assurance that the land would be cared for. Ducks Unlimited offered that assurance.”

Over 100 acres of irrigated corn on the land provides food for wintering ducks and Canada geese that roost on the nearby and historic Johnson’s Ponds. Much of the remaining 600 acres rests in the sandhills covered in sage and native grasses.

Ducks Unlimited plans to develop recharge wetlands on the property for the benefit of waterfowl. However recharge water from the wetlands can also be used by the State of Colorado as part of the Platte River Recovery Program, an endangered species program that requires Colorado to provide at least 10,000 acre-feet of water to the Central Platte in Nebraska.

Recent studies indicate created-wetlands, known as “recharge wetlands,” provide exceptional migration and wintering habitat for waterfowl. “In general, the months recharge wetlands are flooded, February, March, and April, are times of high use by migrating waterfowl and migrating shorebirds en route to breeding grounds,” said Alison Cariveau of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

According to Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, much of the water credits gained through recharge wetlands can be made available to local water users through agreements that allow them to pump from wells during the summer. “These credits are valuable to the entire community as our rural economy depends on continued long-term agricultural enterprises,” Frank said. “We are very pleased with Ducks Unlimited’s vision for the property and its eagerness to work with local interests to provide a winning solution for all.”

Ducks Unlimited is working with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to lease the property for public access during hunting season, which should occur in time for the spring turkey hunt. “Our long-term goal is to provide habitat for wildlife that has both the land and water protected in perpetuity, promotes our hunting heritage, and provide multiple benefits to the State and local economies”. Kernohan said. “. Our plan is to sell a conservation easement on the property to protect it in perpetuity and then sell it to the Colorado Division of Wildlife or a private conservationist. Operating in this manner allows us to recapture capital for reinvestment in other properties.

Ducks Unlimited will continue to care for the South Platte River with a renewed commitment to conserve 30,000 acres in the Platte River watershed by 2014. For more information on DU’s programs along the South Platte River, www.ducks.org/platteriver.

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