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DU, NRCS partnership exceeds goals in Wisconsin

Paradise Valley Wildlife Area

Paradise Valley Wildlife Area

New wetlands for ducks and improved water quality aren’t cheap. Sharing the cost, and resources, means a lot more waterfowl habitat in Wisconsin.

In 2018 Ducks Unlimited entered into a three-year partnership with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help deliver and maintain the Wetland Reserve Easements across Wisconsin. Two years later, the program has far exceeded its goals and has been renewed for an additional three years.

“These Wetland Reserve Easements are the most powerful tool in our toolbox for wetland restoration,” said Brian Glenzinski, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Wisconsin.

In just two years, the partnership has completed 25 projects and protected, enhanced or restored 8,250 acres across the state.

“Collaboration with DU has been critical in meeting our wetland restoration goals for the state. The wetland expertise and guidance this partnership brings to the conservation table is paramount in keeping our Wetland Reserve Easement program successful,” said Greg Kidd, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Easements.

The program incentivizes landowners to place conservation easements on portions of their land. DU provides the expertise to design and build projects on the easements, and the NRCS holds long-term ownership of the easements. Those parcels of land are protected, and also opened up to restoration or enhancement efforts.

“In some situations, we’ve helped restore former agriculture land to wetlands, and in other places repair failing water-control infrastructure and rebuilt berms,” Glenzinski said.

DU has helped the NRCS with easements previously, but this concentrated program has produced better than expected results.

Many of these sites have turned into public recreation areas. A good example is Paradise Valley Wildlife Area in Waukesha County. The NRCS and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources developed the site through the easement program in 2007. Today, DU is helping to maintain the important 1,500-acre wetland complex by repairing berms and installing spillways to keep out an influx of invasive carp.

The partnership is expected to produce two to three new restorations per year, in addition to protecting land and improving existing wetlands.

“The Wetland Reserve Easement Program is a natural fit for landowners looking to retire ground which might not be productive for farming,” Glenzinski said. “And interest is high. We have many landowners who want to get into the program and DU is working to find funding to meet the need.”