Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

D.U. Biologist Wants Hunters to Boost Crp

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

D.U. Biologist Wants Hunters to Boost Crp

Article excerpt

The rebound of the sport of duck hunting last fall has sparked a lot of offseason activity among hunters. Thousands of people are investing in new decoys, shotguns, etc., in expectation of another good hunt this fall.

What they should be doing, though, is writing their congressmen, said Jeff Nelson, chief waterfowl biologist of Ducks Unlimited.

"A lot of the additional birds which came down the flyways last fall were there because of CRP," Nelson said, "and they won't be there in the future if Congress allows the CRP program to expire."

CRP stands for Conservation Reserve Program, created by Congress in 1985 to reduce erosion on the nation's croplands. In the program, farmers are paid on a per-acre basis to stop plowing and planting row crops on certain fields. Instead, they plant grass or other things that hold soil. Since 1986, when the first contracts were signed, almost 35 million acres in 17 states were put into CRP.

Most important to Nelson and the nation's duck hunters are some 8 million acres in the program in North and South Dakota, Montana and eastern Minnesota. These stretch across the heart of America's waterfowl nursery - the prairie pothole region.

Nelson said that CRP's effect on the potholes was dramatic, providing undisturbed grass where before there were only plowed fields.

"A lot of ducks, including most of the important dabblers like mallards, pintails and teal, don't nest in the potholes but in the grass around them," Nelson said.

"CRP, starting in 1986, put the grass back, but it wasn't until 1992 that the drought ended and we started getting some water. That wet summer of 1993 was the bell-ringer. We got a lot of our potholes back and a lot of them were surrounded by CRP grass."

The fall flight of North American ducks increased to 71 million in 1994 from 59 million the year before and a substantial part of the increase of those birds were produced in the States. Nelson said that CRP grass was vital in that increased production.

"In the years prior to CRP we were getting 10 percent nesting success in the potholes, meaning that only one in 10 nests on the ground produced young," Nelson said. …

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