Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that up to $35 million will be provided during the next three years to help landowners conserve grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region. The announcement was made on the Secretary’s behalf by Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie.
Farmers, ranchers and conservation partners will have access to a mix of financial and technical assistance opportunities to restore wetlands and grasslands and help mitigate a recent regional trend of conversion to croplands.
“This region of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Montana provides critical breeding and nesting habitat for more than 60 percent of the nation’s migratory waterfowl,” Bonnie said of the Prairie Pothole region.
The wetlands and grasslands that characterize the region provide vital water storage to reduce regional flooding, improve water quality and have tremendous potential to store carbon in soils, which reduces the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.
“Our goal is to help landowners manage their working lands in a way that’s compatible with agricultural production and good stewardship of the soil, water and habitat resources of the area,” Bonnie said. “So we are really talking about keeping working lands working.”
The funding comes in a couple of pieces, including:
NRCS also is providing additional technical assistance to complete certified wetland determinations, needed by producers to meet conservation compliance requirements first put in place in 1985.
Additionally, the 2014 Farm Bill has expanded opportunities for conserving grasslands and wetlands, including those in the Prairie Pothole region. To find out more about USDA’s efforts to work with producers in the region click here. USDA also recently solicited proposals for Conservation Innovation Grants. A previous USDA grant went to Ducks Unlimited and other partners to develop a carbon credit system for North Dakota landowners in the Prairie Pothole region.
For more information on these opportunities, visit a local NRCS field office or the NRCS website.