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Restored Wetlands Provide Recreation to Disabled Vets

By Jennifer Van Eps, NRCS Washington

Wood duck boxes were placed throughout the property to encourage nesting on the ranch.
Wood duck boxes were placed throughout the property to encourage nesting on the ranch.

For disabled military veterans who used to be sportsmen but thought they no longer had the same access to the great outdoors, the 2,000-acre Barker Ranch in West Richland, Wash. provides the opportunity to rekindle that experience.

For more than six years now, a partnership between Camp Patriot and the ranch gives disabled vets the opportunity to hunt. But the successful excursions enjoyed by veterans would not be possible had the ranch been left in the condition it was in when purchased by its current owners.

Eight miles of wetlands had been drained by previous owners, making way for cropping and grazing. But Barker Ranch has restored those wetlands with help from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and its partners like Ducks Unlimited.

The ranch was enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the nation’s top federal conservation program for wetlands. NRCS helped the ranch build dikes and water control structures, which allowed the land to hold water again.

About 150 wood duck boxes were placed on the land for nesting habitat, and all of the grains raised on the ranch are used to feed wildlife. Learn more about Barker Ranch and Camp Patriot.

Restored wetland in central Washington.
A restored wetland in central Washington is an example of how landowners working with NRCS can convert property to more pristine conditions.

WRP assists landowners in the restoration, creation, protection and enhancement of natural wetlands on their property. More than 2.5 million acres of wetlands have been conserved through enrollment in the program, which marks its 20-year anniversary this year. The nation has lost more than half of the 220 million acres of wetlands it was home to just a few hundred years ago.

Across the U.S., more than 11,000 landowners have enrolled in WRP to make wetlands more pristine. This accounts for 11 acres of wetland conservation every hour. Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife and help communities through flood control, groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration and other environmental benefits.

Learn about how WRP has helped black bears in Mississippi and helped Maryland landowners enhance family property.

Interested in WRP? Visit your local field office.