Ducks Unlimited presented the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with its Montana DU Conservation Partner of the Year award in August at the Montana DU state convention in Great Falls. The award is presented annually to agencies and individuals who make outstanding contributions to the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl habitat in Montana.

DU CEO Dale Hall was on hand to present the award to NRCS State Conservationist Joyce Schwartzendruber. "The NRCS has risen to the challenge of slowing wetland and grassland losses here in Montana by stepping up efforts to conserve key habitats through programs such as the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)," said Bob Sanders, DU's manager of conservation programs in Montana. "Through DU's partnership with the NRCS, we have brought on additional staff to help deliver a wide range of programs across the state. This is a great example of how agencies, conservation organizations, and most importantly private landowners can work together to accomplish conservation goals."

WRP is a voluntary Farm Bill program that gives private landowners the opportunity to restore and protect wetlands on their farms and ranches. These wetland restoration projects provide valuable ecological services on the landscape, including clean water, flood control, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities.

An important state for duck production, Montana continues to lose more than 10,000 acres of native prairie each year. Meanwhile, CRP contracts on more than 1 million acres of grassland will expire during the next 12 months.