Draining a one-acre pothole doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you realize it drains another six acres, says Bob Grant, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) manager of provincial operations.
The impact on wildlife habitat, water quality and flooding is bigger than one might suspect.
The need to preserve and restore wetlands is just one of the Best Management Practices (BMPs) farmers will see in action at three new Sustainable Land Use Centres thanks to a $1 million donation from the Richardson Foundation to DUC.
One of the sites is here at the research farm south of Winnipeg operated by James Richardson International. Another is at Tundra Oil & Gas Partnership’s drilling site at Virden. (Tundra, like James Richardson International, is one of several firms owned by the Richardson family.) The third will be at Richardson’s new oilseed-crushing plant being built at Yorkton, Sask.
Other BMPs being demonstrated include conservation tillage, riparian management, winter wheat production and fuel storage.
“We know that sustainable land practices lead to profitable farming and provide society with important ecological goods and services,” DUC chair Neil Downey said at a June 25 event announcing the donation and the centres. “We also know many farmers are grassroots conservationists.”
Kelburn Farm, long a showcase for James Richardson International, is also an education centre for urban and rural students to learn about farming and the environment. Monsanto Canada recently donated $71,000 to DUC to expand the Wetland Centres of Excellence education program at the farm, plus add centres at Virden and Yorkton, Downey said.
“This will help to educate future conservationists and agricultural leaders,” he said.
The divide between urban consumers and farmers has grown over the years, said Curt Vossen, James Richardson International’s president. The Sustainable Land Use Centres will possibly help to narrow the gap, he said.
“These new sustainable land use sites show that commercial agriculture and resource extraction can be environmentally sustainable and even enhance the surroundings using a variety of BMPs,” Vossen said.
Bringing BMPs to oil exploration will be a first for the oil and gas industry and it will be challenging, said Dan MacLean, president and CEO of Tundra Oil & Gas Partnership.
Of the $1 million the Richardson Foundation will provide DUC over three years, about $400,000 will be used to enter agreements with landowners to preserve and restore wetlands in perpetuity. The money will leverage $1.5 million from the federal government, U. S. states and private donations, Grant said.
Canadian farmland provides about 30 per cent of the North American habitat for breeding ducks, Downey said, but it’s slipping away. Seventy per cent of the Prairie wetlands have disappeared since settlement.
“We’ve got to retain these areas,” said Ken Gross, DUC head of upland restoration in Manitoba.
“We target areas that are at risk for loss (with the easement program).”
Landowners are paid based on the assessed value of their land. In the Killarney and Minnedosa areas, it’s around $100 an acre. While those in the program are obliged to preserve their wetlands they can still hay or graze the land and use the water for livestock, Gross said. [email protected]