BISMARCK (AP) - The federal government is making $3.6 million available through a conservation program to help Upper Midwest farmers and ranchers who have flooded land.
The funding is being made available through the Water Bank Program, which gives landowners annual payments over 10 years to protect wetlands and adjacent farmland. Eligible land this year includes flooded crop land; flooded hay, pasture and rangeland; and flooded private forestland.
"The Water Bank Program provides a unique opportunity to keep water on the land for the benefit of wildlife, such as waterfowl, while also contributing to flood control, water quality and rural economies," Jason Weller, chief of the federal Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service, said in a statement. "Through Water Bank, landowners receive assistance as they turn their perpetually flooded lands into great benefits to our wildlife populations."
The NRCS is taking applications through April 18 from producers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the program might particularly benefit landowners in regions with chronic flooding, such as the Devils Lake area in northeastern North Dakota.
"The Water Bank Program has proved to be a success in North Dakota, and these additional funds will help continue that success story," he said in a statement.
Last year, Upper Midwest landowners enrolled more than 15,000 acres in the program, according to Weller. That helped provide habitat for more than 300 species of migratory birds that rely on the Prairie Pothole region for breeding, nesting and resting, he said. The Prairie Pothole Region stretches from Montana to Iowa and is pockmarked with wetlands.