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Wetland Symposium

The Role of the Soil Conservation Service in Private Wetlands Conservation and Management


U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, Federal Building, Room 443, 10 East Babock Street, Bozeman, MT 59715; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 220 East Rosser Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58502

Restoration and management of privately owned wetlands is critical to achieving the goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). About 75% of the wetlands in the continental United States and 90% of the opportunity for wetland restoration occur on private land.

The Swampbuster provision of the 1985 Food Security Act has considerably reduced drainage of privately owned wetlands but it has not been sufficient to boost waterfowl and other wildlife populations to levels targeted by NAWMP. About half of our wetlands have been lost, and restoration of privately-owned, prior converted and farmed wetlands will be required to meet NAWMP goals. Effective wetland restoration will require a good working relationship between wildlife interest groups, who urgently need private landowner cooperation, and landowners, who have an opportunity to be proactive and reduce the need for additional government regulation of private land use.

The Soil Conservation Service (SCS) is uniquely qualified for a leadership role in wetland conservation. The SCS has a long-term working relationship with the agricultural community and has proven ability to provide interdisciplinary technical assistance.

SCS is firmly committed to the conservation and restoration of wetlands and the values they provide as a part of total resource management. To help achieve the goal of no-net-loss of wetlands, SCS participates in the following wetland conservation activities:

- Provides technical assistance for administration of the "Swampbuster" provision of the 1985 Food Security Act in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

- Provides technical assistance and/or cost share for wetland restoration under the Conservation Reserve Program, Agricultural Conservation Program, Great Plains Conservation Program, Wetland Reserve Program, and Water Bank Program, as well as on-going technical assistance to private landowners for conservation planning outside of cost-share programs.

- Uses wetland restoration and enhancement to mitigate environmental impacts under the Small Watershed Program and assists the Bureau of Reclamation with mitigation projects.

- Participates in cooperative wetland restoration projects with the FWS, state wildlife management agencies, Ducks Unlimited, and others.

SCS has recently developed quality criteria for soil, water, air, plant, and animal resources. These criteria represent management goals which, if achieved, will result in a sustainable resource management system for all resources, including wildlife habitat.

Conservation plans that meet these criteria over time will be required if conservation practices are to be cost shared under the Great Plains Conservation Program or the long-term agreement provision of the Agricultural Conservation Program. This will increase the opportunity for SCS involvement in private wetland conservation since many landowners may need to enhance wildlife habitat in order to meet the quality criteria.

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