- Keith Sutton
- 0 Shares
I hope you'll pardon me today if I get up on my soapbox and rail a bit about some of the narrow-minded politicians who are allowed to make important decisions that affect all of us.
It irks me to no end when these short-sighted nitwits cater to big-money interests instead of doing what's right for present and future generations of Americans. So allow me to rant and rave a few minutes and get this out my system.
Wildlife and taxpayers have been mistreated once again, and I figure someone should at least tell you there's a turd hidden under the corn, beans and bread on your dinner plate, and some politicians put it there.
Here's what's happening. As part of the 2008 Farm Bill, the governors of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa were given the opportunity to opt-in to the federal "Sodsaver" program, which makes newly plowed native grassland areas ineligible for crop insurance or disaster payments.
Proponents of the Sodsaver provision hoped to stop the illogical practice of subsidizing destruction of some of the world's most biologically diverse and threatened grasslands. The measure does not prohibit landowners from planting commodities, but it does remove the perverse government-funded incentives to plow up land with low crop-yield potential just to get an insurance pay-out.
According to a 2007 Government Accountability Office report, the U.S. lost 25 million acres of grasslands between 1982 and 2003, largely as a result of Farm Bill commodity subsidies like the crop insurance program.
Most remaining large tracts of native prairie in the U.S. are found in the five states involved in the Sodsaver provision. This region is full of shallow ponds formed by glaciers called "prairie potholes."
The lands around these ponds are generally arid and rocky, and while they are well-suited to grazing livestock, they are ill-suited for row crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans.
More importantly, these lands provide ideal habitat for nesting waterfowl. Millions of ducks are reared in this Prairie Pothole National Priority Area each year and migrate to places like Chesapeake Bay, Arkansas' Grand Prairie, Louisiana's Gulf Coast and California's Central Valley.
Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? States that opt in to Sodsaver would end the moronic practice of rewarding landowners for plowing up valuable prairie habitat that has little agricultural value to begin with.
But one must take into account that politicians like these five governors rarely take actions common-sense people would deem appropriate. And that was the case in this instance.
A target date of February 15, 2009, was set for the states to take formal action on Sodsaver. And, not surprisingly, not a single state did so.
In effect, governors John Hoeven of North Dakota, Michael Rounds of South Dakota, Brian Schweitzer of Montana, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Chet Culver of Iowa thumbed their noses at conservation, showing the world they don't give a damn about promoting healthy land stewardship within their states.
Their inaction on the Sodsaver provision showed they would rather continue practices that benefit few to the detriment of many. And ignorance is no excuse.
Conservationists and taxpayer watchdog groups alike hailed the inclusion of the Sodsaver provision in the 2008 Farm Bill as passed by both the House and Senate. And dozens of conservation organizations joined together be sure the governors were well-informed of the consequences their decisions on Sodsaver might have.
We shouldn't be surprised, of course, that governors of states where farming interests are so powerful should take this course of action. But we shouldn't be apathetic either.
The governors' failure to do what common sense dictates is right could have long-lasting negative effects for all of us.
Consider, for example, these facts. Over the past six years, the Dakotas and Montana have lost a half million acres of native prairie already, destruction encouraged by high commodity prices and the federal mandate to produce more ethanol, a corn-derived motor fuel additive.
This habitat is irreplaceable. And Ducks Unlimited biologists estimate an additional 3.3 million acres of native prairie could be lost during the next five years without Sodsaver — the equivalent of 15 percent of the remaining 22 million acres. These native prairie conversions will ultimately reduce fall waterfowl migrations across North America.
The economic ripple effect of losing native prairie will be in the millions of dollars. According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, losing native prairie will cost taxpayers more than $119 million dollars.
In addition, with the decrease in ducks from the migration, part of the $1.3 billion dollars that migratory bird hunters contribute to rural economies across the nation will be lost.
What can be done to halt these negative changes?
"While the door has closed on this opportunity to protect the prairies, we are working with members of Congress and the Administration to come up with solutions that will ensure the prairies are not lost," said Don Young, Executive Vice President of Ducks Unlimited. "These habitats represent some of the most productive waterfowl breeding areas in North America, and we will continue to work to secure their long-term existence."
The situation is dire, but you can help stop the devastating loss of native prairie by making a donation to Ducks Unlimited's Rescue the Duck Factory campaign. Launched on September 1, 2008, this important program was conceived to obtain funds needed to pay for conservation easements in the Prairie Pothole region.
It already is working. As of February 16, 2009, 2,933 acres of wetlands and 11,239 acres of grasslands had been protected with perpetual easements. The Fish and Wildlife Service, DU's key conservation partner in the Rescue the Duck Factory campaign, also has obtained signed options on another 1,436 acres of wetlands and 10,841 acres of grassland. This brings the total acres secured since the launch of the campaign to 26,449.
Although significant progress has been made, the need is still great. There are 597 landowners on the waiting list for easements in North Dakota and South Dakota offering over 244,358 acres for protection. More than $88 million is needed to secure this habitat.
DU hopes to raise a portion of this money through private gifts. Each dollar given to the Rescue the Duck Factory campaign will be leveraged at least three times with matching funds from corporations, federal duck stamps, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and other sources.
At current land values, grassland easements can be purchased from cooperating ranchers at an average cost of $360 an acre. These easements are permanent and prevent grasslands from being plowed and wetlands from being drained regardless of future ownership.
Time is not on our side. The U.S. portion of the Prairie Pothole region already has lost more than 70 percent of its original grassland, and most of the remaining 22 million acres of native prairie in the region is vulnerable to conversion. I encourage you to help.
To make a gift to DU's Rescue the Duck Factory campaign, please contribute online at www.ducks.org/helptoday.
Derrick Rose scored 25 points and Pau Gasol added 21, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 99-92 victory over the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Manny Pacquiao will have surgery on the torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder this week, and he will be out nine months to a year, according to Pacquiao's surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan passed through Baton Rouge, Louisiana and had an unsanctioned meeting with former LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins, a source told ESPN.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry won the NBA's MVP award, beating out Houston's James Harden in a race that turned out not to be that close.
The Oakland Raiders are planning to release James Jones, who led the team with 73 receptions in 2014, after finding two new starting receivers in April.
If the Seattle Seahawks were hoping to motivate linebacker Bruce Irvin by not picking up his fifth-year option, it seems to have worked.
Jameis Winston's rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers precludes him from playing professional baseball, according to a report.
With the 2015 NFL draft in the books, Mel Kiper gives his grades all 32 draft classes. Seattle and Baltimore are among the teams with the best marks.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on running back Doug Martin's contract.
Jay Beagle scored the lone goal in the first period and Braden Holtby (30 saves) recorded his second career playoff shutout as the Caps take the upper hand on the Rangers once again.
The Dallas Cowboys did not pick up a fifth-year option on cornerback Morris Claiborne's contract.
The Milwaukee Brewers have named Craig Counsell as their new manager on Monday less than 24 hours after firing Ron Roenicke.
Derrick Rose scored 25 points, and Pau Gasol added 21, to lead the Bulls to a win in Game 1 over the short-handed Cavaliers despite a big night from Kyrie Irving.
LeBron James' decision to ditch his patented headband stemmed from a desire to match his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates, according to a report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
There's something about Talladega Superspeedway -- its ardent Earnhardt fans, the success his family has had at the track -- that makes Dale Earnhardt Jr. feel a responsibility to put on a show.
U.S. Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn announced her breakup with golf star Tiger Woods on social media Sunday after nearly three years together.
Rory McIlroy had to work harder than ever to win the Match Play Championship.
Mel Kiper identifies the first-round rookies he thinks will have the biggest impact, including Amari Cooper and Dante Fowler Jr.
It doesn't make intuitive sense that a player that size can impose his will on the NBA, but that's just what Stephen Curry did to win the MVP.
Marcus Mariota received a hero's welcome Saturday at Oregon, where fans gave the reigning Heisman Trophy winner a standing ovation during the Ducks' spring football game.