Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Grazing That's For the Birds

In 2006, Chad Weiszhaar had a revelation ... he didn't have to sacrifice one cent of profitability to build wildlife habitat. The same grazing practices that benefitted nesting birds in his home state of South Dakota actually improved quality and diversity of the native, mixed-grass prairie forages his cattle depended on. Weiszhaar's paradigm shift began when he agreed to enter into a seven-year land lease with Ducks Unlimited (DU) that year. The purpose of the agreement was to see how his herd's annual grazing strategies affected survival of nesting waterfowl. The land he was to graze was part of DU's Revolving Land Strategy program in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR). "Because of its numerous shallow lakes, diversity and density of marshes, rich soils and warm summer climate, the Prairie Pothole Region is seen as one of the most important wetland regions in the world. It's one of the highest-priority landscapes for implementation of DU programs," explains Randy Meidinger, DU Conservation Program Manager. DU uses the Revolving Land Strategy in South Dakota, along with other states in the PPR, as a way of holding ownership of selected parcels of land for one to seven years. During that time, the conservation group restores the land and develops protective management plans. At the same time, the land is leased to neighboring ranchers, who agree to create grazing plans that support beef production, while preserving wetlands and wildlife habitat. Once restoration is achieved and protective easements are established, the land is sold. Proceeds are reinvested in new PPR land, and the cycle repeats. Weiszhaar's ranch sits in the midst of northeast South Dakota's PPR, where millions of waterfowl migrate and nest. The PPR covers a vast area of central Canada, most of eastern South Dakota and eastern North Dakota, and portions of Iowa, Minnesota and Montana...more

No comments: