With the generous support of several major donors and supporters, Ducks Unlimited and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources completed the next step in improving Ballard County Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a vital wetland complex in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway.

Ballard WMA stretches into the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), a Priority 1 landscape for Ducks Unlimited. The MAV was once a 25-million-acre complex of forested wetlands interspersed with swamps and other waterfowl-friendly habitat. Nearly 40 percent of North America's rainwater drains through the MAV. Today, only about 20 percent of the original forest remains in the MAV because of agricultural production and other land uses.

To enhance, restore and protect the remaining MAV wetland habitats and their ecological values, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and Ducks Unlimited are combining resources with private, government and non-government conservation entities. So far, the partnerships have impacted more than 13,000 acres in Kentucky.

The latest success story is the 8,000-acre Ballard County WMA.

"Ballard County WMA is one of the most important sites for wintering and migrating waterfowl in western Kentucky, and regularly has winter counts in excess of 100,000 ducks," said Mark Flaspohler, director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited's Big Rivers Initiative.

DU and the KDFWR created two new moist soil units in the Pecan Grove Field unit at Ballard WMA by building a series of new berms and installing several new water-control structures. The infrastructure improvements have given the state new abilities to manage nearly 30 acres of moist soil habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl.

The enhancements signal the ever-changing approach to wetland conservation along with a team approach to large, public land complexes.

"Our knowledge and understanding of water management in these systems has evolved," Flaspohler said. "Going forward, we will take advantage of the latest science and wetland engineering design to help guide development of wetland projects and management."