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Rensselaer County Dairy Farm Implements Wetlands Reserve Program

An excavator removing soil to create potholes on Matt Cannon's WRP site.  Click image for full screen view
An excavator removing soil to create potholes on Matt Cannon's WRP site. Full screen view
A lower pothole that has just been completed. Click image for full screen view
A lower pothole that has just been completed. Full screen view
Matt Cannon visits his WRP site while SWCD and NRCS perform field checks staff. Click image for full screen view
Matt Cannon visiting his WRP site while SWCD and NRCS staff perform field checks. Full screen view

The Cannon Cattle Ranch - Dairy Farm, owned and operated by Matt and Peggy Cannon, located in the rural Town of Pittstown in Rensselaer County, New York just completed their Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) restoration project this past winter. Matt Cannon has worked with the Rensselaer County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and NRCS on a number of conservation projects directed at the dairy farm's croplands, pastures, and farmstead. This is his first Wetland-Wildlife targeted project.

Matt Cannon had worked much of the land offered into the WRP as cropland, but decided that the best use of the wet fields was for wildlife. Matt’s wife, Peggy is an avid bird enthusiast and enjoys the variety of birds on their farm - as evident by her 50 plus bird feeders by the farmhouse garden! After closing on the permanent easement in 2011, Matt worked with the Conservation District and NRCS in finalizing the WRP restoration plan, obtaining the necessary New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permit, and began work in the fall of 2011. Matt had purchased an excavator for the farm for a number of projects, including the WRP restoration work.

Matt and his hired operator completed the first upper section pothole complex in 2011. Eric Swanson, NRCS District Conservationist, worked to see a special District / NRCS WRP Contribution Agreement approved, allowing for the Conservation District field staffs to assist in implementing the WRP in the county. Kathy Donna, NRCS Area Biologist, provided ongoing guidance on the restoration work. In the late fall of 2012, Matt completed the final lower section pothole complex.

In addition to ten potholes and 110 feet of level ditch on the 24.5 acres of permanent easement, a total of ten Wood duck boxes were installed. Just this past spring, Matt forwarded pictures that Peggy took of wood ducks in the potholes. Acting as his own contractor, Matt carefully excavated each unique pothole, then constructing and installing each wood duck nesting box and their placement.

Eric Sanson (left) and Matt Cannon (right) checking out a pothole. Click image for full screen view
Eric Swanson (left) and Matt Cannon (right) checking out a pothole.
Full screen view
An upper pothole ready for ducks to visit. Click image for full screen view
A completed upper pothole, ready for ducks to visit. Full screen view

Matt also helped sell the program to his neighboring farm and is waiting for the go-ahead to install more new neighboring potholes.

The Wetland Reserve Program is a voluntary program that offers landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands within their property. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts.

The goal of NRCS is to achieve the highest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. Lands eligible for WRP include agricultural lands with hydric soils, such as, farmed wetlands, prior converted croplands, farmed wetland pastures, certain buffer lands, and more.

If you are interested in WRP or want to learn how you can protect natural resources on your farm or forestland, please contact your local NRCS office.