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NRCS Celebrating Wetlands Program Milestone

California Landowners have enrolled 100,000 Acres into WRP

Jody Fagan (530) 792-5645
Alan Forkey (530) 792-5653

ARBUCKLE, Calif., October 1, 2010—USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced California’s farmers and ranchers have now enrolled over 100,000 acres into the Wetlands Reserve Program(WRP). This announcement came during a celebration and wetlands tour at Joe Kalfsbeek’s farm in Colusa County.

"We are commemorating the voluntary conservation work of over 240 private landowners and recognizing those on-the-ground folks from partner organizations who made this milestone happen," said Ed Burton, NRCS State Conservationist for California. "With over 100,000 acres enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program, you have made California a national conservation leader."

WRP was first authorized in the 1992 Farm Bill. Since then, the program, administered by NRCS, has helped farmers and ranchers enroll marginal agricultural land in conservation easements to enhance and/or restore wetland habitat on their property.

Wetlands can help decrease damage from flooding, improve groundwater recharge, enhance water quality and provide much-needed habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife. California’s wetlands host over 180 species of birds, including 29 at-risk species.

WRP also offers farmers and ranchers an economic alternative for land that is too wet to profitably farm.

"As we’ve seen on Joe Kalfsbeek’s rice farm today, incorporating wetlands on a working landscape can be an asset," Burton said. "Land that continually floods is now habitat, holding water and providing recharge for Joe’s most productive fields."

As part of the celebration, NRCS recognized the partner organizations that have helped the agency work one-on-one with landowners to restore their wetlands. These partners include the California Waterfowl Association, California Department of Fish & Game, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Audubon, Ducks Unlimited and others.

Burton presented awards to the following individuals for their contribution to the 100,000-acre milestone:

  • Jake Messerli, Vice President of Conservation Programs, California Waterfowl Association, Sacramento
  • Rick Maher, Northeastern California Regional Biologist, California Waterfowl Association, Fall River
  • Matt Hamman, Private Lands Biologist, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Craig Isola, Private Lands Biologist, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Chris Hildebrandt, Regional Biologist, Ducks Unlimited, Los Banos
  • Graham Chisholm, Vice President and Executive Director, California Audubon, Bay Area
  • John Carlon, President, River Partners, Chico
  • Bobby Kamansky, Tulare County Resource Conservation District, Visalia
  • Peter Perrine, Assistant Executive Director, State of California Wildlife Conservation Board, Sacramento
  • Geoff Guepel, Terrestrial Program Director, Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Petaluma
  • Catherine Hickey, Wetlands Division Associate Director, Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Petaluma
  • Shawn Milar, Coastal Program Coordinator of North Central California Coast, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Monterey
  • Loren Ruport, Private Lands Coordinator, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tulelake

While 100,000 acres is a significant accomplishment, the acreage is only a small percentage of the historic wetlands that once existed in California. About 95 percent of the wetlands once found in the Central Valley have been drained or modified.

NRCS offers WRP on a continual sign-up basis to private landowners and tribes with agricultural land. For more information, landowners can contact their local NRCS Service Center or visit www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.

NRCS is celebrating its 75th year of "Helping People Help the Land." Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has worked in partnership with private landowners and a variety of local, state and federal conservation partners to deliver conservation based on specific, local needs.