Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The need for wetland management in the Prairie Pothole Region is not restricted to manipulation of water levels. Elimination of the natural biotic forces of fire and ungulate grazing on many nontilled wetlands decreases insolation of surface waters and rates of nutrient turnover, thereby decreasing productivity of life forms adapted to shallow, open water (see Section 2). Vegetation of shallow waters, if not removed by herbivores or otherwise cropped, often develops into rank and dense stands that discourage use by many aquatic species, including waterfowl. Some form of vegetation manipulation on shallow wetlands is desirable as part of the management of lands to maintain high cover quality for waterfowl production.
Wetland restoration has high potential for increasing productivity of wetland complexes in North and South Dakota that have lost critical wetland habitat through drainage. This management tool is being used with increasing frequency, particularly on lands retired from crop production under 10-year contracts through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), on lands deeded back to or on those lands where loans are administered by the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), and to replace wetland habitat lost during construction of public works projects. With an estimated 1.5 million ha of drained wetlands in the Dakotas, widespread opportunities exist to restore wetlands within the states' cropland base. In conjunction with the CRP, FWS offers participating landowners an additional payment in return for the right to restore wetland habitat in the tract. In North Dakota, the reformulated wildlife mitigation plan for the Garrison Diversion Unit includes planned restoration of 4,499 ha of former wetland as replacements for wetlands lost during project construction (U.S. Department of Interior 1987). The scale of future wetland restoration in North and South Dakota will depend primarily on the direction taken by Federal agricultural programs. With sufficient incentives to agricultural producers, large-scale wetland restoration programs are feasible with major potential benefits to North American waterfowl and other wildlife populations.