By Joe Albert Staff Writer
Ottawa, Ontario — As Canada works to honor its climate change
commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, ducks could be a main
beneficiary, says a major conservation group.
Ducks Unlimited Canada, with $2.7 million over three years from
three agencies of the Canadian government, is researching the
extent to which wetlands and grasslands reduce greenhouse emissions
and act as carbon sinks.
Depending on the research’s outcome, Canadian farmers could
receive federal reimbursement for protecting their grasslands and
“This is potentially a pretty big deal,” said Bruce Batt, the
Memphis, Tenn.-based chief biologist for Ducks Unlimited. “There’s
all the native grass and wetlands on private land that could
ultimately receive protection because of the compensation to
The research is taking place in the Canadian Prairie Pothole
Region – provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta – which
contains 80 percent of the agricultural land in Canada. The region
is among the most important in North America for waterfowl
The announcement of the research comes as Canada is trying to
determine what best management practices should receive funding
under its new farm policy, the Agricultural Policy Framework.
Farmers would be paid for the environmental assets, known in Canada
as ecological goods and services, like clean air and water that
result from best management practices.
Batt is optimistic that DU’s study will show that grasslands and
wetlands are effective in reducing greenhouse gases and that their
maintenance will qualify as a best management practice.
“The idea, ultimately, is (farmers) would get reimbursed for
protecting these so-called ecological goods and services,” Batt
said. “It has the implication of millions of acres of grasslands
that are still out there, and all the wetlands that are out there
that are under siege.”
The main goal of the research – and of the Canadian government –
is to identify on-farm, best management practices that provide the
highest potential for carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas
emission reduction on the agricultural landscape, according to a DU
But that’s not to say ducks, other wildlife, and water wouldn’t
benefit from farmers being paid to preserve the grasslands and
wetlands on their farms.
“This work is cutting-edge science that is based on quite a
different approach than is characteristic of most waterfowl
conservation programs,” said Dr. Henry Murkin, director of
conservation programs for DU Canada. “However, it has profound
implications for the future of waterfowl production on millions of
acres of prairie upland habitat and hundreds of thousands of
prairie pothole wetlands.”
Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Agri-Food each
committed $300,000 per year for three years to fund the study.
The Agricultural Policy Framework is Canada’s initial foray into
a federal farm program.
Federal farm programs will accomplish more conservation than
non-profit groups, Batt said.
“Canada is with the Agricultural Policy Framework where the U.S.
was with the Farm Bill 20 years ago,” Batt said.