Wetland Reserve Program Improves Water Quality and Wildlife
by Sabrenna Bennett, PAS Student Intern, NRCS
When farmers decide to retire, there is always one important question to consider: What do I do with the land? Many pass their land down to future generations, some rent their land to active farmers, and others, like Ernest Prosser, convert their altered cropland back to its natural habitat. Prosser, a retired farmer and native of Kingstree, SC, enrolled 420 acres of his cropland into the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), with a 30-year easement. He received technical assistance from NRCS District Conservationist Reginald Hall and other NRCS employees, including Soil Conservationist Trinette Vereen, Field Engineer Larry Cantrell, and Soil Conservation Technicians Johnny Lee and Robbie Holcombe. By plugging up a network of ditches throughout his cropland, Prosser hoped to recreate a natural wetland habitat for wildlife and waterfowl.
Historically, Prosser’s farm is a bicentennial farm that has been in his family since 1754. Over the years, much of his land was drained for use as cropland, by creating a network of ditches to remove the water. Prosser, who performed much of the wetland restoration himself, along with NRCS, plugged up these ditches, in an effort to hold water. He also installed several berms (round, natural earthen structures) to hold water on his cropland. “Berming these ditches and creating the dike has really helped to restore the natural hydrology that was removed,” explained Hall.
In addition, a dike was placed on the main ditch that drained a bay and the field ditches. A rock shoot was built in the middle of the dike to prevent flooding on the land of adjacent property owners by draining overflowing water into a ditch. The rocks lie on a geo-textile fabric and are held in place by honeycomb iron structures, which prevent the rocks from washing away.
Since the creation of the wetland, Prosser has seen an increase of wildlife. He has sighted several animals and waterfowl, including quail, deer, turkeys, maganza ducks, snipes, and wood ducks. Ultimately, he hopes that the wetland will bring native bobwhite quails back to his farm.
In the future, Hall hopes to see more WRP sites. “Restoring this site has brought an awareness of WRP to local landowners in Williamsburg county,” stated Hall. “I hope to see more farmers get involved in the program to enhance wildlife habitat.”
Prosser is confident that the wetland will flourish and attract wildlife habitat. “I expect this wetland to do what it was created to do,” said Prosser. “And that is to improve overall water quality and enhance wildlife.”
For more information, contact the Kingstree NRCS office at (843) 354-9622.