Ducks Unlimited says new CRP practice will benefit breeding ducks in the Prairie Pothole Region

BISMARCK, N.D., Aug. 25, 2006 – Ducks Unlimited says a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative will benefit breeding ducks across the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR).

USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) announced Thursday a new CRP practice - the Duck Nesting Habitat Initiative. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will administer the program. The announcement was made at the fourth North American Duck Symposium presently being held in Bismarck.

FSA Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs John Johnson (middle) with DU GPRO Director of Operations Jeff Nelson (right) and DU Director of Conservation Programs for ND Jim Ringelman. Johnson visited GPRO today.

This initiative is a continuous practice meaning landowners can sign up at any time beginning Oct. 1, 2006 and do not need to wait for the next general signup. The Conservation Reserve Program is a key conservation program for farmers and ranchers within the Farm Bill. One of DU’s highest priorities for the next Farm Bill is to maintain at least 7.8 million acres of CRP in the Prairie Pothole Region, also known as “the Duck Factory.”   

The goal of the initiative is to increase duck populations by an estimated 60,000 birds annually by restoring 100,000 acres of pothole habitat. Unlike other CRP practices, the initiative is targeted at priority waterfowl breeding habitats throughout the PPR, which encompasses portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa. FSA's Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs, John Johnson, says the initiative will further CRP's large-scale achievements in protecting the nation's wetlands and wildlife.

“While the restoration of wetlands is an important aspect of this new initiative, the establishment of large blocks of grassland surrounding these wetlands will have a positive impact on the nesting success of waterfowl and other grassland and wetland dependent wildlife,” said Scott McLeod, a regional biologist at DU’s Great Plains Regional Office in Bismarck.

DU’s extensive scientific research shows that the grasslands surrounding the tens of thousands of potholes that dot the prairie landscape are critical to protecting duck nests from predators, and restored wetlands will improve brood survival during this vulnerable time for both ducklings and adults.

Under the new Duck Nesting Habitat Initiative guidelines, more landowners should be interested in enrolling acreage in CRP. Landowners located in areas that attract greater than 25 breeding duck pairs per square mile can enroll up to 10 acres of upland for every acre of restorable wetland. Those landowners located in areas attracting fewer than 25 breeding duck pairs per square mile can enroll up to four acres of upland for every acre of restorable wetland.

“This is an important distinction,” McLeod said. “The upland to wetland ratio of 10-to-1 is a significant improvement over past CRP practices that only allowed a 4-1 ratio. In many cases, this will allow landowners to enroll entire fields without having to worry about farming between wetland basins.”

The almost 8 million acres of CRP presently located in the PPR are credited with adding 2.1 million ducks to the fall flight each year.

“Today’s announcement is a significant step towards preserving our nation's strong waterfowling heritage,” said DU’s Jeff Nelson, director of operations for GPRO. “Ducks Unlimited is grateful for this commitment and looks forward to continuing to work with FSA to maximize the benefits of CRP for landowners and wildlife alike.”

Contact: Scott McLeod
Becky Jones Mahlum

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