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New USDA initiative will help ducks in the Prairie Pothole Region

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BISMARCK, North Dakota, April 2, 2007 – Ducks Unlimited (DU) says a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiative will help restore critical duck habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region. The region is known as the nation’s “duck factory.”

According to the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the new initiative is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The initiative is called State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement. It allows state FSA offices to address local wildlife conservation needs in conjunction with the needs of farmers and ranchers.

"This new practice will allow states to focus CRP on wildlife concerns specific to their state, whether it is a game species, such as ducks or pheasants, or an at-risk species, such as the sage grouse” said John Johnson, deputy administrator for farm programs, for FSA.
 
Johnson says the initiative is the latest in a series of steps to refine and target CRP, so it achieves specific and measurable environmental objectives.

“This latest practice illustrates our commitment to maintain the reputation of CRP as the nation’s largest and most successful conservation program,” Johnson said.

“We applaud the efforts of FSA to initiate this practice” said Bart James, who handles agriculture issues in Ducks Unlimited’s Washington, DC office. “It should provide real positive benefits for waterfowl conservation.”

One of the goals of the program is to restore habitat for economically or socially significant species.

“Waterfowl certainly fall under that category,” James said. “Outdoor recreation adds $730 billion to the U.S. economy each year and is the foundation of the country’s sporting heritage.”

Enrollment for the program is 500,000 acres nationwide. Each state has an acreage allotment based on weighted average cropland area. The Prairie Pothole Region includes parts of South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa. The total allocation for this area is 117,200 acres. The Prairie Pothole Region is one of the most important and threatened habitats on the continent.

Following a meeting in March with DU officials in Washington, DC, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns directed FSA to update CRP rental rates nationwide to ensure that market-based rates are being used.

“This is an important first step in making sure this key farm bill conservation program remains a viable choice for farmers, ranchers and other landowners who want conservation as part of their land management strategy,” James said. “The new initiative will be a great compliment to other conservation programs in the Prairie Pothole Region as long as rental rates are competitive.”

Contact: Scott McLeod
(701) 355-3500
smcleod@ducks.org

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with almost 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.

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