Landowner Josh Haugen restores plowed prairie

Farming and ranching large tracts of land can be challenging, but Josh Haugen of Litchville, North Dakota, learned it from his father, Clay.

"My dad basically restarted the family farm after graduating high school, and farming and ranching have been in the family ever since," Josh said.

When Josh bought his own land in 2005, he broke ground and planted crops.

"Once the native prairie was broken, I saw the soil contained excess amounts of water and high salinity levels. Crops just couldn't grow," Josh said.

Knowing he needed to restore the land, Josh looked for programs that would help. Josh found the help he needed with the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). EQIP is a farm bill funded program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers who implement voluntary conservation programs on their land.

Once enrolled in EQIP, Josh worked with a Ducks Unlimited conservation specialist to enroll 50 acres in an Outdoor Heritage Fund Grazing Land and Habitat Enhancement program. Administered by DU, this program helps landowners retain grasslands for wildlife and livestock and allows more haying and grazing options than traditional set-aside programs.

"I like the program," Josh said.  "The soil has improved and I don't see alkali or white soil on top. I have noticed an increase in wildlife, including deer, pheasants, grouse and waterfowl, on the property since replanting the native grasses."

He says utilizing these programs has allowed him to restore marginal land where crops couldn't grow back to grass for the benefit of livestock production and wildlife.

"Without these programs, I would not have been able to restore the grassland. I now have hope that my children will enjoy this land one day," Josh said.