After successfully completing its pilot year, Ducks Unlimited’s Cover Crop and Livestock Integration Project (CCLIP) is moving into phase two. This phase expands the focus area from a few counties in southeast North Dakota to 37 counties that encompass the Prairie Pothole Region in the state. The North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund (NDOHF) recently fully funded the project by awarding DU a $1.25 million grant.
“In addition to the soil health improvements, water quality benefits and habitat conservation practices promoted by CCLIP, we are working with new partners and landowners, many of which were previously unaware of DU’s voluntary conservation programs,” said Tanner Gue, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist.
In summer, 2017 the NDOHF awarded DU $620,000 that funded the startup of CCLIP. With those funds, DU completed 14 projects that enhanced more than 3,500 acres of grassland, 3,500 acres of cropland and 500 acres of wetlands. Twelve additional projects are pending from this initial effort.
“One of our goals with this program is to reduce some of the economic pressures producers feel to drain small, yet significant wetlands that are imbedded in croplands,” Gue said.
CCLIP assumes some of the financial risk by cost sharing 60 percent of the expenses for adding grazing infrastructure to croplands and purchasing cover crop seed. This assistance gives farmers and ranchers the tools to prove to themselves these practices work for their operational goals.
The regenerative agricultural practices promoted by CCLIP restore organic matter to the soil, reduce soil compaction and increase water infiltration. Maintaining livestock on the landscape allows recovery time on perennial pastures and the five-year contract protects small wetlands that are important for breeding waterfowl. All these practices result in more productive cropland, healthier soil, increased flood protection and improved waterfowl habitat.