GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – April 29, 2010 – Ducks Unlimited is using innovative ways to help Nebraska landowners while providing habitat for waterfowl in Nebraska's Rainwater Basin. A new $1 million grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) will allow DU to use some of these techniques as well as enhance public lands to increase recreation and tourism opportunities in the area.
Mallards flying over the Rainwater Basin
"We know our work to provide habitat in Nebraska will be more successful if we act in ways that benefit landowners," said Steve Donovan, manager of conservation programs for Nebraska.
The NAWCA grant will restore and protect more than 4,100 acres of habitat in the Rainwater Basin through 14 separate projects. One of the projects funded through the grant will allow DU to trade good cropland for marginal cropland in order to restore a 300-acre wetland that will become part of the Nelson Waterfowl Production Area.
"This land trade will keep the best cropland in production, while allowing the marginal cropland to be restored to wetland, providing habitat to waterfowl and other wildlife," Donovan said. "It's a win-win for the landowner and waterfowl."
Donovan says much of the land restored through this grant will be managed through grazing. "Beef is an important segment of the Nebraska economy," he said. "And controlled grazing can keep the grass and wetlands in good shape for cows and wildlife."
Nebraska's Rainwater Basin has lost about 90 percent of its original wetlands, yet millions of waterfowl and other birds continue to migrate through this area in search of places to rest and refuel. The Rainwater Basin is one of the most important wetland ecosystems in the Central Flyway particularly during spring migration when millions of waterfowl stop here during their long migration flights.
"A big part of the work we do in the Rainwater Basin is to restore the natural functions of wetlands in the area," Donovan said. "Some of the wetlands have been drained and others have become choked with dense stands of perennial plant species limiting food availability for waterfowl."
About 50 percent of the continent's mallard population and 30 percent of its pintails use Rainwater Basin habitats during spring migration. About 90 percent of the mid-continent's greater white-fronted geese depend on this habitat. The Rainwater Basin was recently named the first "Landscape of Hemispheric Importance" in the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, in part because almost all of the world's buff-breasted sandpipers stop in the Rainwater Basin each spring, along with many other species of shorebirds.
Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.