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News Release

Northern Plains Farmers and Ranchers Apply for New Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative

Contact:
Sylvia Rainford
(202) 720-2536


WASHINGTON, August 12, 2011—Chief Dave White of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today that Northern Plains farmers and ranchers have applied to enroll portions of their private lands into a new initiative designed to enhance migratory bird habitat and improve the water quality and the health of grasslands in the Prairie Pothole Region of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. NRCS is committing more than $10.8 million to support the effort, known as the Northern Plains Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (NPMBHI), in a region of the United States that provides feeding, nesting, breeding and resting areas to many species of migratory waterfowl. More than 5 million pair of ducks breed in the region each year.

“This tremendous effort will put proven conservation practices to work protecting and sustaining important migratory bird habitat and improving water quality and grasslands,” said White. “America’s producers know that there is no inherent conflict between a thriving agricultural operation and improved wildlife habitat. In fact, well-managed private lands support healthy ecosystems that provide clean water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and other environmental services that benefit the public, while improving the vitality of agricultural lands and the economies of local communities. “

  The NPMBHI provides technical and financial assistance for restoring wetlands drained for agricultural uses; managing farmed wetlands in ways that reduce impacts on wildlife and water quality; and keeping unaltered wetlands in their current condition.

Funding is provided through a combination of Farm Bill programs, including the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and Grassland Reserve Program.

Examples of conservation practices approved for the NPMBHI are: planting native plants and cover crops in nesting areas; employing grazing methods that protect habitat; and removal of invasive trees that choke out native plant species and attract predators. Practices will be combined into conservation systems designed for individual farms and ranches.

Today’s announcement builds on a similar program initiated in June 2010, which helped to create habitat for birds expected to migrate through agricultural areas on their way to wetlands and waterways impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The former initiative attracted landowners in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, enrolling 470,000 acres into that initiative—more than three times the number anticipated.

Part of the northern Great Plains and midgrass and tallgrass prairies, the Prairie Pothole Region contains thousands of shallow wetlands known as potholes. Measuring nearly 100,000 square miles, land use has impacted nearly half the region’s original prairie pothole wetlands, reducing bird and wildlife habitat and compromising water quality and water supplies.

Below is the financial assistance funding allocated to states for NPMBHI during fiscal year 2011:

Iowa - $4,200,000
Minnesota - $375,000
Montana - $500,000
North Dakota - $2,775,000
South Dakota - $3,025,000
Total - $10,875,000

The NPMBHI program supports the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting private lands through its America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Working with conservation partners and others, USDA helps communities find local solutions to natural resource issues such as protecting a large-scale ecosystem like the Prairie Pothole Region.

For information, visit NRCS conservation programs.

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