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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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U.S. Prairie Pothole Joint Venture
Implementation Plan


Historically, the glaciated landscape of the PPR, located in the north central United States and south central Canada, consisted of a large grassland ecosystem dotted with millions of lakes, ponds, and marshes. Water that fell onto this landscape was largely retained in these wetland basins due to the poorly defined natural drainage network. These wetlands and associated grasslands provided excellent habitat for many wildlife species.

Today, the PPR remains the most important waterfowl producing region on the continent, generating more than half of North America's ducks. Nearly 15 percent of the continental waterfowl population comes from the PPJV region (Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa). As many as 10 million ducks and 2 million geese use the PPJV region during migration or for nesting. The wetlands and associated grassland habitat in the PPJV region provide breeding habitat to over 200 species of migratory birds. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, whooping cranes, piping plovers, and interior least terns frequent the PPJV region during migration and breeding periods.

During the last century, the grasslands of the PPR were largely converted to intensively cultivated cropland or were heavily grazed and hayed for cattle and sheep production. As the need for developed land accelerated, drainage was necessary to convert wetlands to cropland. Federally subsidized drainage programs eliminated nearly all wetlands in some areas. These changes in land-use and wetland drainage accelerated down-stream flooding and soil erosion, impaired water quality, contaminated groundwater, and degraded fish and wildlife habitat.

In the last 25 years, populations of many North American wildlife species have shown steep, consistent, and geographically widespread population declines. Several grassland bird species, endemic to the PPR, in addition to several species of waterfowl, have shown some of the steepest and most widespread population declines. Species considered endemic to the PPR are those whose current geographical breeding range is mostly contained within the region and that commonly depend on grassland-wetland complexes for food and cover.

Loss of grassland habitat and associated wetlands is believed to have negatively affected most PPR wildlife. The fragmentation of the prairies into small remnant patches by intensive cultivation is believed to be primarily responsible for these declines.

Concern over the rapid decline in waterfowl and other wetland wildlife led to the development of the NAWMP which was signed on May 14, 1986, by the United States and Canada. Specific NAWMP objectives are to increase and restore duck populations to the average levels of the 1970s, i.e., 62 million breeding ducks and a fall flight of 100 million birds. The NAWMP recommends implementation of joint ventures as a mechanism by which government agencies, private organizations, and individuals can cooperate in planning, funding, and implementing actions that assist in rebuilding waterfowl populations.

The PPR was identified in the NAWMP as the top priority waterfowl breeding area with respect to action and funding. The United States' portion of this region was identified as one of six initial joint ventures. Presently, 12 habitat joint ventures are in operation.

In late 1987, the PPJV Board was organized to identify and implement specific management strategies which addressed habitat and population objectives of the NAWMP. The Board consists of representatives from Federal and state agencies, private conservation organizations, and individuals with management responsibilities for, and interest in, waterfowl and associated wildlife populations. Information on PPJV organization and responsibilities is contained in Appendix A. Priority actions for the Board are located in Appendix B.

The PPJV Implementation Plan was prepared in 1989, and outlined goals, objectives and strategies for Joint Venture activities. State Action Plans that stepped PPJV activities down to the state and local level were prepared by individual State Action Groups/Steering Committees. These groups (that continue to implement joint venture activities at the state and local level) are composed of a cross-section of waterfowl and non-waterfowl interests. They continue to evolve as broader partnerships are formed.

Since the establishment of the PPJV, numerous habitat protection, restoration, and enhancement projects have been completed by Joint Venture partners, using the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and partner contributions as major sources of support. A summary of PPJV accomplishments from 1987 through 1993 was prepared and distributed in 1994.

This PPJV Implementation Plan Update continues to emphasize waterfowl while providing additional objectives and strategies for other wetland-associated wildlife. The PPJV encourages consumptive and non-consumptive user groups to become active partners in projects that emphasize wetland and associated grassland conservation.

Although annual waterfowl harvests are an important component of waterfowl management, this plan addresses only production, recruitment, and habitat issues.

Hunting regulations are, and will continue to be, addressed by the existing regulatory process.

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