Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Act (The Duck Stamp Act) authorizes the
purchase of lands using the revenue from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps for
the purpose of improving the production of migratory birds, especially
waterfowl. Under this program both fee title lands and easements are purchased
to protect migratory bird habitat.
Waterfowl Production Areas
WPAs are public lands purchased with Federal Duck Stamp revenue. While many
National Wildlife Refuges protect large blocks of land, WPAs are small, ranging
in size from as little as 10 acres to nearly 2,000 acres. They are often
broadly dispersed over many counties. More than 3,000 WPAs have been purchased
since 1958 when Congress authorized the use of Duck Stamp monies for purchasing
The Duck Stamp Act also funds the purchase of wetland and habitat easements.
The wetland easement involves a signed agreement with a landowner protecting
wetlands on their land from being burned, drained, filled, or leveled in
perpetuity. The landowner receives a one-time payment for protecting the
wetlands. When protected wetlands go through dry cycles, they can be farmed,
grazed or hayed without violating the agreement. The land remains in private
control, and the landowner controls access to these wetlands.
Habitat easements generally protect both grassland and wetland habitat, but
again the property remains in private control and the landowner allows access.
The landowner may be offered one of four options. The first option is complete
protection of wetlands and grassland on their property. With this easement, the
government purchases the rights to graze, hay, farm, drain, and harvest seed
from the property. Two other options allow the landowner to either hay or
graze. The haying option purchases all of the above rights except the right to
hay or harvest seed. The landowner can hay or harvest seed after July 15th each
year, which allows most ground nesting birds to hatch their eggs before any
cutting is done. The grazing option allows the landowner to graze the land with
no restrictions, but the Service still purchases the rights to hay, harvest
seed, farm, and drain. The haying and grazing option allows the landowner to
hay after July 15 and graze, but the Service purchases the rights to farm and
drain. With any of these options, the landowner receives a one-time payment for
the rights that the Service purchases from them.
Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge
In 1999, the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was
established in western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. The refuge has a goal
to preserve 77,000 acres of native prairie and buffer lands adjacent to those
prairies. The establishing legislation of this refuge allows native prairie
tracts that have never been broken by the plow to be purchased in fee title or
to be protected by perpetual easements. Tracts in 48 counties in western
Minnesota and 37 counties in northwestern Iowa can be part of this refuge. Many
specialist species like the greater prairie chicken, chestnut-collared
longspur, marbled godwit, and Dakota skipper butterfly rely on these intact
tracts of native prairie to survive.
If any of these options to protect your land and provide habitat for
migratory birds and prairie specialists sound appealing to you, please contact
the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District for more information about these
programs. Call 218-739-2291.