In Missouri, 93% of the original wetland habitat base has been lost and an estimated 87% of that wetland loss occurred during the 1950's thru the 1970s. In many locations across the state, modern engineering has tamed the once-existing swamps and marshes and converted the rich alluvial floodplains of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers into highly productive farmland.
Today agriculture plays a vital role in sustaining Missouri's social and economic well-being. If Missouri is to be successful in restoring wetland functions and values to our great floodplains we will need to do so in partnership with the Missouri Agriculture Wetland Initiative.
The initiative is a cooperative partnership between Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Ducks Unlimited (DU), Missouri Audubon and Missouri landowners to integrate wetlands into agricultural operations.
MAWI is a good marketing, outreach and education effort directed at bringing awareness to Missouri producers and landowners regarding the important role wetlands play in regards to overall soil, water quality and wildlife conservation, and the multitude of practices currently available that can make a positive difference in their farming and conservation bottom line.
In 2004 DU, in partnership with MDC, NRCS and FSA, was granted United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval to provide additional financial support to landowners interested in "Enhancing" their CP-23 design to allow for the seasonal flooding of adjoining cropland. The additional cost of the "Enhancement," which usually entails additional earth work and/or larger water control structures, is provided by a cooperative agreement between DU and MDC and pays 100% of the "Enhancement," costs up to a maximum amount of $10,000 per hydrologic site. The landowner must agree to pay for additional costs after the $10,000 limit and sign a cooperative wetland habitat development agreement with DU. To date, on-the-ground delivery of this program has been implemented primarily by the NRCS/MDC Wetland Teams located in the Chillicothe and Fulton Missouri USDA Offices.
MAWI has been reasonably successful in demonstrating the compatibility that exists between wetlands and agriculture. Presently, the partnership agreement has completed 25 separate projects on private lands and has restored the wetland function and values on 733 acres of moist soil wetlands and has provided flooding potential to an additional 1,031 acres of row crops.
The MAWI Agreement was modified in 2013 to incorporate MAWI Phase III, specifically to focus on a continuation of restoring wetlands in collaboration with the USFWS and MDC to address wetland dependent wildlife needs in Missouri. MAWI Phase III builds on a landscape-scale focus for other important historic wetland areas designated by the USFWS Partner for Fish and Wildlife Program's 2013-2017 Strategic Plan, Conservation Opportunity Areas associated with the Missouri Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy (State Wildlife Action Plan) and DU's Big Rivers Initiative to address wetland habitat needs along large river systems in Missouri.