DU helps improve wetland management at NE WPAs

Land transfers help waterfowl and recreation in the Rainwater Basin

When staff at Nebraska waterfowl production areas (WPA) are managing wetlands, they try to not impact neighboring private property. That can be a challenge if the private land is part of the same wetland footprint, meaning the soil types on the private land have the same ability to hold water as those on the WPA.

Ducks Unlimited is helping public WPAs “round out” their wetland footprints by acquiring neighboring properties and transferring them to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which owns and manages the WPAs. Employees can then better control WPA wetlands without being concerned about flooding neighboring crop fields.

“These transfers open the whole playbook for wetland managers who are trying to produce the best habitat for migrating waterfowl in this vital landscape,” said John Denton, DU manager of conservation programs in Nebraska. “The land is also now open to the public, creating more recreational opportunities.”

Another way DU tries to be a good neighbor to Nebraska communities is by creating tax endowment funds. The funds allow counties to make up for any loss in tax revenue since the federal government pays less in property taxes. DU has set up funds in Clay and Franklin counties and plans to develop others soon.

Ducks Unlimited purchased the last round-out in the Smith WPA wetland footprint to fulfill DU’s goal. DU transferred the Clay County tract to FWS, along with another property in the county that adds to Massie WPA. The Real WPA in Fillmore County and Cottonwood WPA in Phelps County were also rounded out with DU’s help. The land has been transferred to the FWS.

In one of the round-outs, the land owner wanted to trade for farmland. A Ducks Unlimited volunteer bought farmland for DU to complete the trade.

Funding for the round-outs was provided by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and Ducks Unlimited. The Nebraska Environmental Trust assisted with habitat restoration work on one of the properties.