WRP is offered through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and is a voluntary, incentive-based conservation program authorized by the "Farm Bill" offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property by providing the government with either a perpetual or 30-year conservation easement on the affected lands. Landowners maintain ownership and access control of their property.

In partnership with the NRCS on many WRP projects, DU designs levees and water control structures to restore hydrology, develops plans for restoring vegetation and other habitat characteristics and oversees the restoration work. DU is fully reimbursed by NRCS for all design and restoration work conducted on WRP projects. DU does not spend membership or fundraising dollars on WRP projects.

Congress provides a budget for WRP with the goal of restoring 250,000 acres annually, up to a total of 2,275,000 acres. The program currently has over 1,275,000 acres enrolled. Landowners with eligible lands compete for the limited financial assistance available each year. In fiscal year 2002, landowners enrolled 250,000 acres in the program but almost 500,000 acres were excluded due to insufficient WRP funds. Each state's NRCS office is solely responsible for selection of the lands that are enrolled in the WRP program.

DU does not exercise any management control over lands in WRP, including access for hunting or other purposes. DU's primary interest is to insure that these wetland conservation projects are designed and restored to best provide wetlands functions and values for waterfowl and other wildlife while meeting overall program requirements and landowners' desires.


The Conservation Reserve Program is a conservation provision to the 1985 Farm Bill. CRP's soil conservation strategy includes paying farmers to retire marginal croplands from production for 10-15 years.

Its political support came from its potential to reduce expensive commodity surpluses. Within the prairie pothole region nearly 13,000 square miles (an area larger than the state of Maryland) was converted to dense nesting cover through CRP. In the early 1990s, the northern Great Plains began to escape the grip of prolonged drought. The prairie sprung to life and waterfowl piled into prairie potholes surrounded by CRP grass, short-stopping their spring migration to traditional breeding grounds in Canada. Ducks nesting on CRP lands were no longer easy targets for predators.

Prior to CRP, nest success of <10 percent meant that much of the U.S. prairie pothole region was a biological "sink" where waterfowl mortality exceeded annual recruitment. Recent research by DU and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) shows that CRP has doubled waterfowl nesting success throughout the prairie pothole region (averaging 22%). With both abundant grass and wetlands, spring survey numbers began to climb, to numbers 40 percent higher than when CRP was authorized a decade earlier. According to federal and state researchers, in just 5 years, more than 12 million additional ducks have been added to the fall flight as a result of CRP in the prairies. Moreover, CRP has accomplished more for landscape-level conservation of soil, water, and wildlife habitat while providing producers with stable and diversified income than any other USDA program.

DU worked exceptionally hard with the Bush Administration and Congress to reauthorize additional acreage for CRP in the 2002 Farm Bill. Due to our combined efforts, CRP was increased from a national acreage cap of 36.4 to 39.2 million acres.

In 2007, over 16 million acres of CRP contracts expire, with an additional 6 million acres expiring the following year. DU is again working hard on reauthorization efforts with a focus on enhancing and expanding the existing CRP "wildlife legacy". Given all of the benefits of CRP to producers, the environment, and the American public, we cannot afford the loss of CRP authorization in the next Farm Bill.

CRP is proof positive that landscape habitat programs work to raise more ducks!