On November 2, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced major investments in climate-resilient agriculture practices, including four ecologically restorative projects totaling $52 million awarded to Ducks Unlimited (DU).
The grants are awarded under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which incentivizes a voluntary, partnership-driven approach to environmental restoration and conservation on working agricultural lands.
The DU-led projects to receive funding are located in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
“Over the last 86 years, DU has learned the tremendous value in partnering with producers to create the best outcome for both waterfowl and people,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam.
“The partnership-driven, incentive-based agricultural practices supported by these grants will make meaningful improvements to water and soil quality, biodiversity and habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife – all while helping increase the productivity and sustainability of the land. We applaud this historic investment and look forward to helping transition these dollars into the landscape,” he added.
The funding is part of a $1.7 billion investment by USDA in climate-smart agriculture practices, which restore habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife, offer additional revenue streams for farmers and ranchers, and have a host of ecosystem services.
“This isn’t just an investment in habitat or agriculture, it’s a down payment on the long-term sustainability of our land, wildlife and natural resources,” said Dr. Karen Waldrop, DU Chief Conservation Officer.
“From helping to sequester carbon and improve soil health to preventing erosion and filtering and storing water, each of these projects offers an immense amount of value to our environment that far exceeds the habitat benefits alone. These grants will help DU magnify that impact on a larger scale,” she continued.
Here’s a brief summary for each DU-led project receiving funding:
- Scott County Iowa Working Lands for Resilient Communities – $8,000,000
Ducks Unlimited, through the Scott County Iowa Working Lands for Resilient Communities project will install Climate smart conservation practices such as in-field and edge-of-field wetland restoration to improve water availability (flood and drought), water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat.
- Kansas-Nebraska Wetland Initiative – $10,000,000
The Kansas-Nebraska Wetland Initiative project will create, restore and protect wetland and riparian barriers in Nebraska and Kansas. The project will address inadequate habitat for fish, wildlife, and invertebrates, excess/insufficient water/drought, and degraded plant condition. Ducks Unlimited anticipates protecting 5,000 wetland acres, 9,000 upland acres, restore 3,000 acres of upland grassland and remove 7,000 acres of invasive species.
- South Dakota Grasslands Initiative – $25,000,000
Ducks Unlimited and other project partners expect to restore 25,000 acres of grassland over five years in South Dakota. These activities will support the increase of soil carbon, reduce nitrogen loss, and sequester atmospheric carbon. The project will integrate spatial data with scientific modeling to translate acres of grassland restored into environmental outcomes such as carbon sequestered, flood water storage, increased migratory waterfowl biodiversity, reduced soil erosion and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff.
- Wisconsin Priority Watershed Protection – $8,833,105
Ducks Unlimited’s Wisconsin Priority Watershed Protection project will restore and protect 800 acres of wetlands and associated upland areas, resulting in lasting improvements in water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity. This project aims to improve native habitat availability by 20% and net greenhouse gas emission reductions through soil health improvements, including work in high organic material soils.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and conserving North America‘s continually disappearing wetlands, grasslands and other waterfowl habitats.
Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has restored or protected more than 16 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science, DU’s projects benefit waterfowl, wildlife and people in all 50 states. DU is growing its mission through a historic $3 billion Conservation For A Continent capital campaign.
Wood duck photo via Pixabay.