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Interior Secretary highlights the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area as a national conservation priority in new report

50-State America's Great Outdoors Report released; lists 100 most promising projects
WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 4, 2011)—U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has released his final 50-State America's Great Outdoors Report, which highlights the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area as one of the country's 100 most promising outdoor projects. The final report is part of the administration's ongoing initiative to reconnect Americans to the outdoors by protecting iconic areas and increasing land access. 

"Ducks Unlimited has been supporting the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area initiative for some time and commends Secretary Salazar for including the project in the America's Great Outdoors campaign," DU Director of the Governmental Affairs Office Scott Sutherland said. "While this is an important step forward, there is more work to be done to ensure this area is properly conserved." 

The purpose of the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area is to provide a voluntary and financially feasible way for ranchers and other private landowners to conserve native grasslands and wetlands. This program is designed to be economically feasible for the federal government because it will be funded with dollars already dedicated to conservation through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and through the revenue generated from Federal Duck Stamp sales.

In the years ahead, this effort is expected to conserve up to 240,000 acres of wetlands and 1,700,000 acres of grasslands in the Dakotas through conservation easements. Under the proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek to acquire voluntary easements from willing sellers on approximately 2 million acres of native prairie habitat to benefit wildlife and support traditional economic activities, specifically livestock production.

The Dakota Grassland Conservation Area is of special importance to Ducks Unlimited because it is located in the Prairie Pothole Region. The area is commonly known as our nation's "Duck Factory" because it plays a central role in sustaining strong duck populations, making it a top conservation priority. To demonstrate support for the project, Ducks Unlimited has committed $50 million over ten years to purchase easements under this program. 

Ducks Unlimited and conservation partners are not the only ones that have advocated for this program. There is currently a waiting list of over 800 landowners in North and South Dakota who have expressed interest in wetlands and grasslands easements. Easements are a popular conservation tool for landowners because land enrolled in this program can still be used as working farmland for grazing and haying, making it an economically sound investment for many ranchers.

Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest nonprofit 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. Visit the DU website, www.ducks.org, for more information.

Emily Tyner

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