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Preserving our wetlands gets a boost

One of the keys to keeping our natural environment healthy is making certain that water resources are appropriately protected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture supports assorted initiatives that advance that important goal.

On July 7, Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture, announced that the USDA is awarding $44.6 million through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership to support 10 wetland enhancement projects in 12 states. Nationally, it is expected that 15,000 wetland acres in watersheds across the United States will be protected, restored or enhanced as a result of these expenditures. The Hawkeye State is one of the locales selected to receive funds.

“USDA is committed to protecting and enhancing our nation’s wetlands, which are critical to the quality of our nation’s waters, wildlife and landscapes,” Vilsack said in a statement announcing the projects to be funded. “By collaborating with private partners at the local and regional level, USDA is able to support innovative conservation solutions and expand the amount of dedicated resources. These are high impact projects that will ensure our land and water resources are healthy now and for the next generation.”

According to information provided by the USDA, the monies allocated for efforts in our state will promote wetland restoration in the prairie potholes region and assist flood-affected landowners in the Iowa and Cedar River watersheds. Here is the USDA summary of what will be accomplished in Iowa as a result of the federal money being awarded:

“The partnership will protect and restore up to 580 acres of prairie pothole wetlands and associated tallgrass prairie uplands on five sites within Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Priority Areas and Ducks Unlimited Living Lakes Initiative Emphasis Areas.”

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest $3 million in these Iowa undertakings. Through a private-public sector collaboration, it is anticipated that these federal dollars will stimulate a broader impact than would be possible with only the NRCS contribution.

This program seeks to mobilize private sector resources rather than simply rely on government spending. That is an approach that makes it especially appealing. It is a good example of the appropriate use of tax dollars.

The Messenger agrees with Vilsack that healthy wetlands are important to the future of Iowa’s natural environment. The funding the secretary has announced deserves applause and warrants support.