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‘Great News for Ducks and Duck Hunters’ : 3-Year ALUS Pilot Project Launched in Manitoba

WINNIPEG, Manitoba—The government of Canada and the province of Manitoba have announced the launch of a three-year pilot project for a conservation program that could revitalize sagging duck production in prairie Canada.
Known in the United States as Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS), the program is designed to support farmers in their efforts to deliver ecological goods and services, including waterfowl habitat.

“This is great news for ducks and duck hunters,” says Delta Waterfowl President Rob Olson. “The Canadian duck factory is broken, and ALUS appears to be our best hope for fixing it.”

Olson says duck production on the Canadian prairies has fallen dramatically from historical levels, and lack of waterfowl habitat is a major reason for the decline. “Despite all the efforts of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, we continue to lose wetland habitat in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta,” Olson says. “As a result, Canada is attracting far fewer nesting ducks than it did in the 1950s and 1970s, and the ducks that do settle there aren’t nesting as successfully.

“Because most of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) lies in Canada, securing waterfowl habitat there is critical to the future of ducks and duck hunting,” says Olson. “Up to now, the burden for conservation has fallen mostly on farmers struggling to make a living. ALUS will reward farmers for protecting the habitat necessary to produce ducks.”

Olson says ALUS is being called “the farmer’s conservation plan” because it has been endorsed by farm groups across the country. The architect of ALUS, Ian Wishart of Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), has worked closely with Delta in developing and promoting the ALUS concept across Canada.

The initial pilot project will be in the Rural Municipality of Blanshard in the heart of the PPR in Manitoba. The local government has committed $40,000 (Canadian) for each of the next three years for the ALUS pilot. US sportsmen also support ALUS: The Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission has pledged $60,000 (Canadian) annually and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission has committed $25,000 (Canadian) a year. Individual duck hunters have also provided support.

Total funding for the Blanshard pilot project is expected to be $1.8 million over three years.

“This is truly a new direction for agriculture and conservation in Manitoba,” said Wishart. “For the first time habitat incentives will be delivered as part of mainstream farm policy in a way that truly engages the landowner.”

Olson praised three Delta staff members for their tireless efforts in promoting ALUS over the past five years: Executive Vice President Jonathan Scarth, Vice President of Policy for Canada Dr. Robert Bailey and Vice President of Policy for Prairie Canada Robert Sopuck.

Sopuck says work is already underway to secure pilot projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Bailey says an Ontario pilot project has been launched, a new pilot project is being planned for Prince Edward Island and discussions are underway for ALUS projects in other eastern provinces.

Cost-shared funding for ALUS will be provided through the environment chapter of the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF) and by the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council.