For landowners in the Devils Lake watershed, flooding and low crop prices have made farming some fields difficult and less profitable. A new program will help address problems with water and nonproductive cropland. The Enbridge Ecofootprint Program can provide cost sharing for landowners wanting to turn marginal cropland and expiring Conservation Reserve Program acres into grazing land.

"The point of this program is to keep the land working while providing habitat," said Tanner Gue, Ducks Unlimited biologist who works with landowners in the watershed. "You can graze the land and hay it, so it will continue to be useful to farmers and ranchers.

Roger Kenner was the first landowner who used the program to expand his ranching operation near Leeds by converting 82 acres of cropland back to grassland. There are six acres of small wetlands within this grassland. Small, temporary basins provide the most critical resources for ducks during the breeding season. The program also helped provide fencing for a rotational grazing system and equipment for a watering system.

"We got a good catch on the grass planting. The grass was planted just this summer, and we've already got grouse in there," Kenner said. "Fence is going up as we speak. Water tanks will be put in soon. This will be a great addition to my operation."

The program provides habitat conservation options that promote a working lands approach. Producers with land in the Devils Lake watershed can get help with grass restoration, fencing and watering systems for livestock production, as well as assistance in developing rotational grazing plans. The watershed runs through most of Ramsey County and parts of Walsh, Benson, Towner, Nelson, Pierce and Eddy counties.

The project is funded through the Enbridge Ecofootprint Program, administered by the Minnesota Association of Resource Conservation and Development. Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program are assisting landowners who want to apply for the cost-share.

"Working with folks from Ducks Unlimited and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife on projects like this is a great experience," Kenner said. "They have the expertise to get things done right and get it done quickly for producers and for wildlife."

Landowners interested in learning more about the program may contact Ducks Unlimited Biologist Tanner Gue at (701) 355-3592 or Partners for Fish and Wildlife Biologist Mike Graue at 701-662-8611 x 334.