Minnesota Piloting "Productive Conservation on Working Lands" Program: Making BioFuels Compatible With Wildlilfe Conservation

grasses kittelson wetland photo

Wise people in the US State of Minnesota are working on an program for rural landowners and/or farmers who would like a way to maintain bio-diversity without fully "idling" present, or prospective, cropland. It's called the Productive Conservation on Working Lands or "PCWL" program. Instead being stuck with the binary choice of using wet or erodible acres to feed the ethanol beast, versus a 5-year contract to keep land in "conservation reserve" (currently the only taxpayer supported program for protecting nesting game birds and other wildlife), farmers can "kill two birds with one stone" with PCWL, taking a long-term stake in non-corn biofuel and providing wildlife habitat. Per the PCWL announcement:-

Producers are being provided with an incentive of up to $150 per acre for producers who are establishing approved PCWL crops. Crops currently funded include Native grasses for biomass or seed, hybrid poplar, hybrid hazelnuts, native berry bushes, willows for biomass, and native flowers for seed.
For you non-farmers, it's important to note that traditional cash crops like corn and soy are annually planted and annually harvested, fence-line to fence-line.

Additionally, when a farmer decides to switch acres in conservation reserve over to corn and soy, the land is disturbed with machinery after ground nesting birds set broods - and then sprayed with pesticides.

The worst aspect of having only two land management choices (Crop vs Reserve) is that commodity grain price trends are national, creating a herd response. With most landowners wanting to "cash in" simultaneously, the wildlife, and hunting opportunities where they exist, are destroyed all at once, wiping out years of positive gains.

The PCWL sponsored plantings have harvest - plant cycles that are more compatible with natural cycles, in other words.

Image credit:Three Rivers Project, Photo Gallery

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