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 Mountain-Prairie Region  Partners for Fish & Wildlife
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Conservation Strategies

Threats

The key ingredients to maintaining viable populations of migratory birds are large blocks of grassed nesting cover and numerous pothole wetlands. Production agriculture, the number one economic activity in North Dakota, continues to place great pressure on both. The vast majority of North Dakota farmers and ranchers readily recognize the contribution that wildlife and habitat provide to their quality of life--it is the rare North Dakota farmhouse that does not house at least one shotgun or fishing pole.

However, with most farmers and ranchers suffering marginal profit margins for several years due to low grain prices and unusual climatic conditions, their ability to restore and conserve wildlife habitat has taken a back seat to keeping the farm or ranch solvent. Many bankers often look closely to assure every acre is being maximized for economic return before giving annual operating loans.

The results of these bad economic times for farmers and ranchers are seen in continued conversion of native grasslands to crop production and intensive cropping practices that contribute to the degradation of prairie pothole wetlands.

The key to stemming the tide of conversion and continued pressure on wildlife habitat is public and private programs, such as the North Dakota Partners Program that can provide the technical and financial assistance necessary to show farmers and ranchers how grasslands and wetlands can fit into their agricultural operation. The Program allows for a "win-win" situation.


North Dakota wetland creation photo

Conservation Strategies

The primary goal of the Partners Program in North Dakota is to restore and enhance prairie wetland complexes. This is accomplished primarily through restoration of key wetlands, establishment of new wetlands, restoring cropland to native grasses, and promoting wildlife-enhancing agricultural practices such as rotational grazing systems, no-till cropping systems, and replacement of agricultural chemicals with biological and cultural practices.

The nature of the Northern Great Plains, including numerous watersheds, abundant grass, and low predation rates, provides North Dakota Partners with exceptional opportunities for establishment of headwater wetlands that enhance breeding and migrational habitat for numerous wildlife species. These wetland restorations cost $300 per acre. The Program also partners with ranchers to redistribute cattle away from sensitive riparian communities. Installation of fencing costs $5,000 per mile.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) plays a pivotal role in restoring and protecting the over 2 million prairie pothole wetlands necessary to meet the goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. NAWCA is the banner under which many privately funded partners rally around to implement habitat enhancement on a broad scale.

 

NAWCA map showing project locations

NAWCA has proven to be the major catalyst for more jointly funded wetland conservation projects in North Dakota than at any other time in history.


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