Conservation News

Delta Waterfowl’s ‘Working Wetlands’ Makes Conservation History as Enrollments Open

Using Delta’s successful Working Wetlands Program as a blueprint, the NRCS has launched the Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Delta Waterfowl’s Working Wetlands — an innovative, incentive-based wetland conservation program with the potential to support the breeding efforts of 1.8 million ducks — opens enrollment this week as the Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Montana. The rollout, administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, results from Delta’s successful inclusion of Working Wetlands language in the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.

“This is a historic day for Delta Waterfowl and a monumental win for ducks and duck hunters,” said Dr. Scott Petrie, CEO of Delta Waterfowl. “Working Wetlands targets small, temporary and seasonal wetlands, which Delta’s earliest research tells us are the most critical to duck production. I am elated that the program is a step closer to conserving breeding duck habitat on a massive scale.”

Launched as a pilot program in 2015, Delta’s Working Wetlands has annually conserved 9,400 of North Dakota’s most vital temporary and seasonal wetlands — small, shallow ponds that provide essential invertebrates to nesting hens and ducklings, but that are also at highest risk of drainage. Research indicates that 93,500 acres of these wetlands were lost from 1997-2009, and millions of wetland basins remain at risk within the U.S. prairie pothole region. That’s why, in consultation with North Dakota’s agricultural leaders, Delta designed Working Wetlands to provide fair compensation to voluntarily enrolled farmers for protecting critical, duck-producing ponds imbedded in cropland.

Given the past popularity of Working Wetlands with the agriculture community, it is expected that demand for the Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program will greatly outweigh the initial funding. Therefore a ranking criteria will ensure the program  conserves landscapes with the highest densities of breeding ducks.

“Conserving the most important duck breeding habitat and producing ducks is our ultimate goal, and that’s what the program is tailored to do by working with farmers and ranchers,” said Delta Waterfowl senior vice president John Devney, who served as the primary architect of Working Wetlands and its leading champion on Capitol Hill. “It’s exciting to see the program enter a new chapter with this week’s announcement, but Delta won’t rest until Working Wetlands is conserving key duck habitat across the entire prairie pothole region.”

The initial enrollment is expected to conserve more than 30,000 small, duck-producing wetlands in North Dakota alone.

“(Working Wetlands especially appeals to farmers because) it allows the producer to seed the wetland when conditions are favorable,” said Jarvis Keney, a North Dakota-based resource conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “John Devney was instrumental in getting the Working Wetlands language into the Farm Bill.” 

Given that 90 percent of U.S. duck production occurs on private lands, the overwhelming majority  of which are working farms and ranches, Working Wetlands represents a win-win solution to conserving breeding duck habitat.

“I’m also proud that Working Wetlands was created selflessly,” Petrie said. “The Duck Hunters Organization won’t receive a dime of taxpayer dollars for engineering a program that will immensely benefit duck production and the future of waterfowling in North America. My hat’s off to John Devney and his many partners, particularly the North Dakota agriculture and conservation communities, and the staff of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”

For more information, contact John Devney at (701) 471-4235 or jdevney@deltawaterfowl.org.

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and secure the future of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.

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