Missouri River Basin Waterfowlers ---
Here's a proposal that was recently sent to DC -- to Iowa's Senators -- Harkin and Grassley - by Bill Smith of Sioux City. Nebraska waterfowlers could push from our side of the BIG RIVER -- to our senators and congressmen.
If we act in tandem we can accomplish the objective -- improve migratory waterfowl habitat in the basin, improve migratory waterfowl populations that utilize the valley during key periods of migration and ultimately ... improve the quality of waterfowl hunting with in the Missouri River Valley basin -- on both sides of "The Mighty Mo".
Anyway, here below are excerpts of that letter ... consider it and perhaps Nebraska's waterfowlers can help push. It's common sense.
Iowa Waterfowlers & Region 5 Migratory Habitat Conditions.
I have sent a proposal to DC senators and their staffs that promote a new agriculture technology that produces migratory bird habitat benefits in the Missouri River basin landscape. It is also a portion of the far west Iowa landscape where ~100% of our native waterfowl habitat has been drained, lost or degraded to a point that it is less than marginal at best. (This is also true for the NE side of the river.)
Crop and wetland SUB-IRRIGATION increases yields per acre AND also puts back on the landscape -- wetlands ... that also support crop aspects of the sub-irrigation system. Here's a website that explains the sub-irrigation concept further: http://www.agrem.com/
These are wetland acres that - through traditional conservation means - would never be obtainable. Waterfowlers alone, have a very limited ability to generate the revenue resources needed for restoration and acquisition of these acres through traditional conservation funding sources. Installation of SUB-IRRIGATION systems is a win - win - win proposition. Farmers get efficient application of water, fertilizer and pesticides; waterfowl have additional habitat sources; and waterfowlers have more opportunities.
It was the objective to obtain these acres by agriculture technology that directly benefits farmers and the by-product benefits migratory waterfowl, migratory habitat and waterfowlers. ( I see the same concept applying to Nebraska farmers & waterfowlers of the Mo. Valley Region.) Part of the proposal that was submitted to DC senators was the inclusion of B-22.
B-22 is a "Temporary Migratory Habitat Incentives Management program" that applies incentives to farmers/landowners who incorporate this technology into their farming operation and who also agree to retain 2" to 6 '' of surface moisture during critical periods of migration. This can be controlled to still allow producers to get into fields when they need to -- as in fall and spring for tillage and planting. In fact, it allows them better control over surface water and subsoil moisture. The size of surface retention has not yet been discussed or determined, but by matter of suggestion, it should at least 10 acres ... and 60 acres would be best.
The benefits to the farming community can be easily established --- the increase yields per acre, reduced nitrate applications and more control over water and how it is delivered to the crop root base. The system provides efficiency that boosts profitability on a stronger and more predictable consistent basis. Having reliable yeilds, year after year, allows the farmer to better plan, grow and MARKET their crop ... and avoid/minimize expensive crop insurance claims.
The benefits to waterfowl (and waterfowlers) will be realized by the additional acres of timely wetlands that would be put back on the landscape to support the SUB-IRRIGATION systems function. This -- being done on the private landscape -- row crop acres -- not public land. Ninety-eight percent of our state's land acres are in the hands of private ownership. Conservation programs & funding such as WRP and CRP can have very serious limitations both in revenue stream and in regulations - from the farmer perspective. This means only a very small fraction of the farming landscape will qualify for the programs and even then, we have to have willing landowners or participants. ( I suspect this to be true in Nebraska as well. )
The SUB-IRRIGATION System employs reservoirs and wetlands for water collection/storage. These reservoirs, typically built on 2.75% of a farm’s acres, collect water during the rainy season for use during summer months. On a 160 acre field, 4.4 acres are used as a reservoir, allowing for the storage of 19 million gallons of water. To put this into perspective, if 25% of Iowa’s farms installed the System, approximately 1 trillion gallons of water would be saved, the equivalent of 30 times the amount of water in Big Spirit Lake.
The benefits to temporary migratory habitat management can be associated with the fact that nearly 100% of the valley's native hydrology is non-existent --100% of native seasonal wetland habitats lost and nearly 99% of all permanent wetlands drained. The reality is WRP & CRP programs have very limited budgets and if we had all of the farming community in line for sign up, only a small fraction of them will qualify. However, the wetland sub-irrigation & temporary migratory habitat management program has the ability to reach the private landscape -- crop acres where WRP or CRP hasn't been obtainable, based on the constraints listed. What this means is that we are able to reach areas of the Iowa (and Nebraska river bottom) landscape where traditional conservation programs haven't taken hold on a greater scale.
By the implementation of this "incentives program", we would be able to (at least temporarily) restore native hydrologic function, meaning under controlled circumstances creating perhaps thousands of acres of shallow, temporary migratory waterfowl habitat -- during key or critical periods of migration. Again this is applying to the landscape what traditional conservation funding & programs have failed to accomplish. Because of incentives, it further boosts production reliability and producer's profits.
It has taken roughly 3 years of research and data collection that have now been put together and presented to producers of Iowa & legislators in DC. The first objective was to obtain socially and economic benefits to producers. Without the ability to support producers needs, this would have not been possible. As far as it being economically plausible, let me say this for a fact: "In 5 years, the system pays for itself."
The Iowa / Nebraska waterfowling community needs to encourage those in DC to develop the plan and see that it is implemented into the next Farm Bill.
In sum, rural economic benefits are easy to understand -- and with a plan in action, a few years of implementation will increase migratory waterfowl population levels with in the BIG RIVER Valley ... and generate more migratory habitat that attracts waterfowl to the state and in turn attracts sportsmen to the rural communities and businesses.
This will certainly generate and support rural economic growth and increase interstate commerce activity to restaurants, motels, gas stations, local shops, sporting goods stores and so on benefiting the communities. While the waterfowler's ultimate goal was really a crop production by-product -- to improve migratory conditions within the valley -- in areas where traditional conservation practices have failed to be implemented -- it would improve migratory waterfowl hunting and migratory waterfowl populations in the state of Iowa & Nebraska. Certainly in region 5 where nearly 100% of our native hydrology or native migratory habitat has been lost, destroyed & drained, SUB-IRRIGATION will do that.
We can not achieve success or accomplish these objectives by traditional conservational measures alone. Despite the 15 to 20 years of programs like WRP or CRP, the valley's migratory habitat inventory status remains to be one of the nation's most degraded or lost. Statistics like 100% of all seasonal wetlands drained or developed, 98% of all permanent shallow wetlands drained, 99% of all native prairie grasses plowed under -- are a sad commentary on the situation.
As a waterfowling community of Iowa & Nebraska, we must band together to restore our standing with in the political arena. Agaain, here's the website that explains the sub-irrigation concept further: http://www.agrem.com/ It shall be a culmination of tools, ideas and practices -- and personal involvement and tenacious commitment that can deliver the type of results that has eluded the region as a whole.
Please ... if you support the concept of the proposal, contact Senator Ben Nelsen, Rep Lee Terry and Senator-elect Mike Johanns and encourage them to support sub-irrigation programs in the next Farm Bill.