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Compensation available to Alta. landowners, farmers for wetland restoration

Oct. 5, 2015, Camrose, AB - Drained sloughs could be a cash cow for farmers and landowners when they restore these wetland areas with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC).

And there couldn't be a better time. DUC is ramping up its presence and activity in Alberta in response to increased priority given to mitigating the effects of drought and flood conditions. Recently, the conservation organization and leader in wetland restoration received additional funding from the Government of Alberta's Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program to restore more wetlands in Alberta. As a result, DUC opened a new office in Strathmore and added more field and GIS technical staff to their wetland restoration team to expand their reach.

Two DUC wetland restoration programs best suited to farmers and landowners, particularly those who use their land for grazing and/or cropping, are the 10-year lease program and the Revolving Land Purchase (RLP) program. The 10-year lease program provides compensation to landowners based on current fair market value for the restored wetland area. DUC pays for all wetland restoration costs associated with a 10-year lease while allowing the landowner to manage the restored area which may include haying or grazing.

Alternatively, the RLP program involves the purchase of land from landowners, restoration of wetland and upland habitat, and registration of a conservation easement on the land title. The land is then sold back to the local agricultural community with the assurance that valuable wetland function and natural ecosystems will be maintained for long-term benefit. Proceeds of the land sale are then used to fund more restoration projects by DUC.

Wetlands, as proven by research, have the ability to store water, slow the release of water into surrounding streams and rivers, filter excess pollutants into watersheds, and recharge groundwater. They also serve as a water source for livestock and provide habitat for wildlife and waterfowl.

Landowners and farmers who have engaged in either DUC program report several benefits, and use them as part of their long-term land management strategies. They are also able to accrue a higher return on investment on land that was formerly viewed as unproductive.

Anyone interested in DUC's wetland restoration programs should contact their area conservation program specialist by calling 1 866 479 3825 or emailing restoremywetlands-ab@ducks.ca.