USDA helps landowners conserve wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat
ST PAUL, MINN, March 17, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide $3.6 million in financial assistance for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota farmers and ranchers to help conserve wetlands and improve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The funding is made available through the Water Bank Program (WBP).
“The Water Bank Program provides a unique opportunity to keep water on the land for the benefit of wildlife, such as waterfowl, while also contributing to flood control, water quality, and rural economies,” said Minnesota State Conservationist Don Baloun.
Through WBP, landowners receive annual payments through a 10-year rental agreement for conserving and protecting wetlands and adjacent lands that may otherwise be used for annual crop production or other activities that require drainage.
The program also helps restore upland habitat for more than 300 species of migratory birds that rely on the prairie pothole region for breeding, nesting and resting.
NRCS will accept applications for WBP from March 17 to April 18, 2014.
Eligible land for this year’s WBP included flooded agricultural land, flooded hay, pasture or rangeland, and flooded private forestland.
WBP funding will not cover the cost of conservation practices to enhance wetlands and contracts will not be renewed after the original contract expires. If conservation practices are required to improve migratory bird habitat, eligible landowners and operators can apply to other NRCS financial assistance programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or available state conservation programs.
WBP is part of a larger NRCS effort to help landowners conserve grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region. Maintaining wetlands and grasslands in the region provide diverse benefits, including water quality protection, potential flood reduction, carbon sequestration and enhanced wetland and wildlife habitat.
Interested landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more about the program and submit an application prior to the April 18 deadline. More information is also available on the NRCS water bank program website.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202-720-6382 (TDD).