Column: Support the farm to save waterfowl

Good waterfowl hunting begins with conservation.

Good waterfowl hunting begins with conservation.

Dale Hall is the CEO of Ducks Unlimited. It’s a job you can’t pretend to love. To be at the helm of the world’s leader in wetlands conservation you have to believe with heart and soul that your mission is vitally important.

Hall eats, breaths and sleeps waterfowl. His personal passion has led to a career devoted to political protection of conservation areas that support natural regeneration of waterfowl species. It’s hard to believe that the future of ducks and geese is determined by a roomful of politicians, but it’s true. Thankfully, organizations like Ducks Unlimited are in existence to ensure our feathered friends get a fair shake.

“Waterfowl are a migratory resource, and Ducks Unlimited and its many partners work across the continent to conserve habitat that fulfills the needs of waterfowl throughout their life cycle. One of our conservation priorities is the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of the Northern Plains, which is the most productive—and most threatened—breeding habitat for North American ducks. The PPR has already lost half of its wetlands, and more than 3.2 million acres of grassland were converted to cropland in the Northern Plains between 1982 and 2003,” Hall

As defined by Wikipedia, the Farm Bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. The comprehensive omnibus bill is passed every 5 years or so by the United States Congress and deals with both agriculture and all other affairs under the purview of the United States Department of Agriculture. It usually amends some and suspends provisions of permanent law, reauthorizes, amends, or repeals provisions of preceding temporary agricultural acts, and puts forth new policy provisions for a limited time into the future.

The Farm Bill is up for vote and portions of it are of great concern to Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups.

“Maintaining and strengthening effective wetland protections. For more than 25 years, incentive programs have been in place to deter wetland drainage. These protections work because they’ve been linked to commodity support and other incentive programs. Congress wants to eliminate many commodity support programs and shift these supports to crop insurance, which is not currently linked to any wetlands protection provisions. This could open the door to further wetland drainage and habitat loss. Farmers need a safety net against catastrophic weather events and volatile markets, but taxpayer resources should not be used to incentivize wetland drainage and habitat destruction. We are asking Congress to link conservation compliance with crop insurance. Long-term sustainability of wetland habitats and waterfowl populations depends in part on this provision,” Hall said.

Joining organizations, like Ducks Unlimited, is about so much more than receiving a monthly magazine and a sticker. You might not realize it, but you really are making a difference for conservation by becoming a member of a conservation-based organization. You help support those who go before the few decision makers and intellectually lobby for the right of sportsmen, and the animals and habitats we love.

“Preserving conservation programs. We support holding the line on no more than $6 billion in cuts to conservation programs and providing strong baseline funding for CRP, WRP, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and the Voluntary Public Access Program. These programs are vital to conservation and help provide hunting opportunities, which is an economic driver in many states,” Hall said.

A recent Ducks Unlimited press release said, “Members are actively engaged in trying to protect conservation programs in the Farm Bill, and we encourage everyone who enjoys hunting and wildlife to do the same. Contact your member of Congress and let him or her know that conservation of grasslands and wetlands in the 2012 Farm Bill is important to you, and that Congress needs to pass a comprehensive five-year Farm Bill this year.”

See you down the trail …

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