The sight of grasslands around his ranch being converted to cropland helped one Emmons County, N.D., landowner decide to protect his native prairie with a grassland easement funded by Ducks Unlimited. "I felt, that's the way it was. What gives me the right to break it up?" he said.
Photo by Jim Ringelman
Ducks Unlimited donors have made this easement and others possible as the Rescue the Duck Factory campaign passes a major milestone. DU has surpassed the 100,000-acre mark in its effort to respond to the interest of landowners wanting to permanently protect grassland and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region.
"This milestone represents great investment from our donors and the [U.S.] Fish & Wildlife Service in protecting native prairie, and a lot of hard work by DU and our partners in the field securing these easements with landowners," said John Childs, president of Wetlands America Trust.
RDF campaign progress:
- Campaign launched in September 2008
- Nearly 102,000 acres of permanent easements purchased or optioned
- Easement costs total almost $29 million
- $4.9 million of RDF contributions have been spent to date
- Additional dollars came from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Federal Duck Stamp program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund
- Recent commitments have increased the DU major donor pledge amount to $22 million
DU has been partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on purchasing perpetual easements since 1997, when DU launched Grasslands for Tomorrow, an aggressive effort to protect 2 million acres of the best-of-the-best waterfowl breeding habitat in the U.S. prairies. That partnership has resulted in 890,000 acres of exceptional breeding habitat secured through easements purchased or optioned from landowners in the prairies.
"Securing high quality breeding habitat in the prairies is one of the most important things DU can do to achieve our Vision of skies filled with waterfowl, today, tomorrow and forever," said Dale Hall, DU's CEO.
RDF was launched to help accelerate DU's easement work. This campaign set an objective of responding to the 600-person backlog of landowners on the easement waiting list. Land offered up for easements amounted to 300,000 acres, and it was estimated that $40 million in private funds would be necessary to leverage a total of $120 million to purchase these easements.
Interest remains very strong among landowners. "As more landowners learn about the program, we continue to get new interest in protecting more grassland acres," said Steve Adair, director of DU's Great Plains Regional Office. "Progress towards our grassland goals continues to be primarily driven by our rate of investment."