“Conserving Nebraska’s Ducks Unlimited Nebraska Wetlands: Ducks Unlimited’s Vital Role”

For Ducks Unlimited conservation of working lands is motivated by two objectives: to preserve vital wildlife habitats, as well as to support working ranches and farms on important landscapes. Its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has proved to be a great vehicle to allow DU to accomplish both of these goals. It was established in the 2013 Farm Bill, RCPP is run by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and is described as an “partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land.”

The NRCS provides funds to projects identified by the agency as being led by knowledgeable partners who show the capability to make use of RCPP funds; the capability to oversee projects and assess results; and the determination to actively engage and assist the farmers and ranchers who would like to implement innovative conservation strategies or technology that are in line with their objectives.

As a key partner in several RCPP initiatives, DU is well versed in satisfying these requirements from beginning Ducks Unlimited Nebraska end. DU field staff interact directly with ranchers and farmers to discuss the many conservation methods offered by RCPP and help them Ducks Unlimited Nebraska choices that make the most feasible for their operation. DU assists them in applying to be included in this program (a procedure that can be very complicated) and Ducks Unlimited Nebraska contracts with NRCS after approval. Additionally, DU provides financial and technical assistance to owners implement conservation measures on their landscapes and measure their progress in the future.

A variety of RCPP initiatives have been implemented under the aegis of the America Rice-Ducks Unlimited Stewardship Partnership that concentrates on the preservation of working rice areas, water resources and wetland wildlife in six states with a high rate of rice production. So far, the partnership has raised more than $110 million for projects that affect more than 830,000 acres. RCPP has been the key to this achievement, according to the Dr. Scott Manley, director of support for agriculture in the DU’s Southern Region. “RCPP has brought together supply chain partners across the rice industry–from the person who grows it to the person who consumes it and everybody in between. It’s given us more holistic conservation projects that promote the most effective local solutions.”

Manley declares that Manley says that the Nutrient management and Gulf Coast Rice Production Project which assists rice farmers in southwest Louisiana tackle nutritional deficiencies in the coastal soils is a fantastic illustration of the RCPP’s positive impact. It was first Ducks Unlimited Nebraska in 2017 by the RCPP, this initiative was renewed to another phase in 2019 because of its popularity and the success. The partnership will eventually get $1.2 million in financing, affect more than 50,000 acres and help 70+ rice farmers in nutrient management. It is the Mosaic Company, which has offered matching funds and knowledge as the world’s leading producer of fertilizer made of phosphate and potash and phosphate fertilizer, played a major contribution in the success of this partnership.

Manley states that it’s encouraging to know that the majority of producers who took part in the initial part of the project are planning to implement the nutrient management techniques they learned and possibly expand them on the remainder of the farms they operate. This will Ducks Unlimited Nebraska the mission of DU. “If you want farmers along the Gulf Coast to grow rice that provides vital foods and habitats for waterfowl, you have to ensure that they are successful in it. This is exactly what this RCPP project aims to do. “Soil wellbeing is the main focus of an additional RCPP project that is in operation in the prairies of South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana. In September of 2020, NRCS announced an $8.7 million grant for DU to support its Scaling soil health in the Prairie Pothole Region project. Further contributions by 20 of the three states increased the total investment at $17 million. South Dakota is currently in its second year of applications while North Dakota is in the first year and Montana is in the process of finalizing NRCS agreement negotiations. DU as well as its collaborators aid the farmers as well as ranchers in improving their their soil health by decreasing disturbance to the soil, diversifying cropping methods, restoring grasslands and wetlands, and creating the infrastructure required for the implementation of rotational grazing. DU regional agronomist Brian Chatham has already received positive feedback from producers who have noticed advantages including better Ducks Unlimited Nebraska, less costs for fertilizer, and greater yields from their crops. He hopes that the positive results will inspire producers to keep the soil’s health and wellness when their contracts expire.

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