“Ducks Unlimited Nebraska: A Legacy of Ducks Unlimited Nebraska Wetland Conservation”

For Ducks Unlimited conservation of working-land habitats is motivated by two objectives: to preserve crucial wildlife habitats and to sustain working farms and ranches in highly-valued landscapes. Its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has proved to be a powerful tool to allow DU to achieve both goals. It was established in the year 2014 under Farm Bill, RCPP is managed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that describes it as an “partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land.”

The NRCS grants funds to projects that are identified by the agency as being managed by skilled partners who show the capability to make use of RCPP funds; the capability to manage projects and analyze results; and the determination to actively engage and assist the farmers and Ducks Unlimited Nebraska who would like to use innovative conservation techniques or techniques that match their objectives.

As a major participant in many RCPP project, DU is well versed in meeting these requirements from beginning to end. DU field staff interact directly with ranchers and farmers to discuss the Ducks Unlimited Nebraska conservation methods offered by RCPP and help them select choices that make the most suitable for their business. DU assists them in applying to be included in this program (a procedure that can be very complicated) and sign contracts with NRCS after approval. In addition, DU provides financial and technical assistance to landowners adopt conservation practices on their land and assess their results in the future.

A variety of RCPP projects have been completed under the aegis of the America Rice-Ducks Unlimited Ducks Unlimited Nebraska Partnership that concentrates on the preservation of working rice land, water resources and wetland wildlife in six states that grow rice. The partnership has raised over $110 million for projects that affect over 830,000 acres. RCPP is the foundation of this achievement, according to Professor Dr. Scott Manley, director of agricultural support 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 states that Manley says that the Nutrient Management as well as the Gulf Coast Rice Production Project which assists rice farmers in southwest Louisiana deal with nutritional deficiencies in the coastal soils is a fantastic illustration of the impact of RCPP. The project was initially established in 2017, the initiative was renewed to a new phase in 2019 because of its Ducks Unlimited Nebraska and effectiveness. The partnership will be awarded $1.2 million in financing, affect over 50,000 acres, and aid 70 rice farmers in nutrient management. Mosaic Company Mosaic Company, which has supplied matching funds and has served as the largest producer in North America of fertilizer phosphate and potash is playing a significant part in the success of this partnership.

Manley is pleased to note that nearly all of the farmers who took part in the initial stage of the project have plans to keep the nutrient management techniques they learned and perhaps expand them to the remainder of the farms they operate. This will help the DU mission. “If you want Ducks Unlimited Nebraska 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 what the RCPP project is doing. “Soil wellbeing is the primary focus of an additional RCPP project that is currently being implemented throughout the Prairies of South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana. In September of 2020, NRCS announced an $8.7 million grant in the direction of DU in this Scaling soil health in the Prairie Pothole Region project. Further contributions by 20 partners across 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 completing NRCS agreement negotiations. DU along with its partner organizations aid the farmers as well as ranchers in improving their their soil health by decreasing soil disturbance, diversifying their cropping methods, restoring grasslands and wetlands, and building the infrastructure necessary to implement rotational grazing techniques. DU regional agronomist Brian Chatham has already received positive feedback from Ducks Unlimited Nebraska who have noticed positive outcomes like better livestock, less cost of fertilizers, and higher yields from their crops. Chatham hopes that these positive results will encourage producers to continue healthy soil practices that are regenerative even after the contract ends.

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