NET Grant Will Help Natural Resource Districts Protect Wetlands

NET Grant Will Help Natural Resource Districts Protect Wetlands

The funds will allow eligible landowners in Rainwater Basin to operate their center pivots over wetlands enrolled in conservation easements.

You can protect wetlands enrolled in an easement program while continuing to run your center pivot over the affect area.

The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts has been awarded $70,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for a project that encourages wetland conservation on private lands in Nebraska's Rainwater Basin.

 This is a first-year award, with a potential for an additional $60,000 in the second year and $20,000 in the third. The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts will be working with the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to carry out wetland restoration projects.

NET Grant Will Help Natural Resource Districts Protect Wetlands

"The Rainwater Basin Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program Special Initiative grant will help pay for construction costs associated with a Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program in the Rainwater Basin region," says Pat O'Brien with the NARD.

This special program allows eligible landowners who enroll in the NRCS's Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program to maintain the right to cross a center pivot over enrolled lands. In the past, restrictions on irrigation systems crossing the wetland posed a significant barrier to enrollment in WREP.

The WREP initiative was developed in response to the particular agriculture and habitat conditions in the Rainwater Basin landscape, O'Brien says. Of the 1,861 wetlands that still functioned in this region in 2010, over two-thirds were intersected by center pivots. "The flexibility of the WREP broadens opportunities for participation in that program, with the goal of protecting, restoring, and enhancing 750 acres of wetlands and upland buffer throughout the Rainwater Basin" says Andy Bishop, coordinator of the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture. "Improved wetland function not only provides additional habitat for the millions of waterfowl that migrate through the region each spring; it also improves groundwater quality and increases groundwater recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer. In addition, it provides landowners with an economically productive alternative for flood-prone cropland," Bishop says.

The WREP funding will help landowners restore some of these vital wetlands. Through the WREP, landowners can choose to enroll eligible land into a permanent or a 30-year easement. Landowners retain ownership and access to the land and may be able to generate income from NRCS-approved grazing, haying, or recreation opportunities.

Interested farmers with land located in the approved project area may apply for assistance at their local NRCS offices or by contacting the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture at 308-382-8112.

The Rainwater Basin wetland encompasses 21 counties in south -central Nebraska. This area is the narrowest portion of the migration route known as the Central Flyway. The Rainwater Basin wetlands provide a crucial stopover where millions of ducks and geese gather each spring to rest and feed on their way to their northern breeding grounds. In addition to millions of ducks and geese, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 shorebirds stop in the Rainwater Basin wetlands each spring.

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