Funding needed now or popular wetlands program dies

Goose Pond example of Wetlands Reserve Program success

ELKHART, Ind., August 30, 2007 – It’s a wetlands oasis that draws waterfowl, other wildlife and people from miles around. For decades, it frustrated Greene County, Indiana farmers who struggled to get a crop from its swampy bottoms. Now, Goose Pond is one of the nation’s largest Wetlands Reserve Program easements. Its nearly 7,200 acres make it a model of success for the popular farm bill conservation program.

Goose Pond is protected forever, but the future of the Wetlands Reserve Program isn’t so certain. The program needs almost $2 billion in the next farm bill.

“If the Senate doesn’t fund the Wetlands Reserve Program by September 30 like the House did in its version of the farm bill, the program is dead,” said Bart James, director of agriculture conservation policy for Ducks Unlimited.

James says DU wants to make sure there’s funding available for landowners to continue to enroll 250,000 acres of their land each year during the next five years.

Americans certainly agree with using taxpayer dollars to restore wetlands in programs like the Wetlands Reserve Program. During the past week, 79 percent of almost 1,900 respondents in a USA Today unscientific poll said they favor using tax dollars for wetlands restoration. Only 15 percent disagreed.

Lack of funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program isn’t due to a lack of interest. Indiana landowners want to enroll now. Landowners receive federal funding to convert marginal cropland back to wetlands. The program, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, turned away 154 landowners – mostly farmers - in 2005. That could have conserved 6,000 wetland acres and provided a stable source of income to farmers.

Wetlands benefit people by cleaning water, trapping and slowing floodwaters and providing a place for people to hunt, fish and enjoy nature. Just like Goose Pond. More than 900 species of wildlife depend on wetlands at some time during their lives.

“The Wetlands Reserve Program benefits everyone involved. Goose Pond is a prime example,” said Michael Sertle, DU regional biologist for Indiana. “It’s great for landowners, the environment and the community. That’s why we need to voice our support for the Wetlands Reserve Program in the next farm bill.”

For more information on the farm bill, go to:

http://www.ducks.org/farmbill/

The Senate takes up the farm bill as it returns from its summer recess.

To contact your senators, go to:

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

To date, the Wetlands Reserve Program is responsible for almost 2 million acres of wetlands restored nationally.

Goose Pond is a perfect example of that success in Indiana.

Contact: Laura Houseal
(901) 758-3764
lhouseal@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.