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Conserving Wetlands Makes Cents

Conserving Wetlands Makes Cents

by Joel A. Willhoft, Resource Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Hays, Kansas

Farming wetlands can be expensive. Inputs such as herbicides and fertilizer are often wasted when a crop is not produced or harvested because of wet and even dry conditions. Even in times of higher grain prices the better economic choice may be to restore or enhance a wetland and save input costs for farming better land.

Wetlands have long been underrated for their many values. They are just now becoming better understood. Among those values are wildlife habitat, water quality, economics, flood reduction, aquifer recharge, and outdoor enjoyment.

The cleansing power of wetlands provides natural pollution control by removing agricultural chemicals, nutrients, and sediments. Wetlands also filter and collect sediment from runoff water, helping prevent mud from clogging lakes and reservoirs farther downstream. And, wetlands store rain water temporarily, allowing it to percolate into the ground or evaporate. The temporary storage reduces peak water flow.

Wetlands are ideal places to hunt and/or watch wildlife, take photographs, and just relax and enjoy nature. They are prime habitats for breeding, nesting, and feeding and cover for invertebrates, insects, amphibians, reptiles, waterfowl, songbirds, and mammals. Up to two-thirds of America’s wild ducks are hatched in prairie pothole marshes. Wetlands in the United States support about 5,000 plant species, 190 species of amphibians, and a third of all native bird species

Most of the time simple restoration practices such as grass planting, tree plantings, silt removal, or properly placed water-control structures are all that is needed to restore or enhance wetlands.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist landowners to achieve improved wetland values by developing wetland improvement strategies in a conservation plan. In addition, there are several programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, or the Wetlands Reserve Program where financial assistance, rental payments, or even easement payments can be made to landowners who desire wetland restoration.

For more information about restoring or enhancing your wetland or natural resources conservation, please contact your local NRCS office or conservation district office. The office is located at your local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at offices.usda.gov). More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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