Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) information-sharing programs for farmers and young people are the beneficiaries of funding pledges from agribusinesses Richardson International and Monsanto Canada.
Richardson, now Canada’s second-largest grain company, on Thursday donated $1 million to support DUC’s conservation programs. Part of that cash will go to create demonstration areas for beneficial management practices (BMPs) at two sites in Manitoba and one in Saskatchewan.
BMPs are a category of on-farm practices that help producers mitigate risks to the environment while allowing them to achieve their economic goals.
“These BMPs will demonstrate how profitable business ventures like commercial agriculture and resource extraction can be complementary with maintaining healthy habitats for wildlife and people,” Richardson and DUC said in a release.
The sites for these projects are at Richardson Kelburn Farm, a company property near St. Adolphe, Man., south of Winnipeg; a drilling site owned by James Richardson and Sons subsidiary Tundra Oil and Gas at Virden, Man.; and a Richardson International site at Yorkton, Sask.
The agricultural Sustainable Land Use Centre sites at Yorkton and Kelburn are meant to provide “tangible demonstrations” to farmers and advising agronomists on how to improve on environmental stewardship and handle “environmental deficiencies” on their farms.
“In addition, those not directly connected to agriculture will be exposed to food sources and how agricultural production systems contribute to a healthy environment,” Richardson and DUC said.
Meanwhile, the oil and gas extraction site near Virden, in Manitoba’s southwest, is meant to demonstrate how the environment can be preserved while developing natural resources.
“Landowners in the area will better understand how habitat protection tools such as conservation agreements can benefit their operation without foregoing their opportunities to capitalize on oil and gas reserves located on their property,” Richardson and DUC said.
“Sharing these practical BMPs with farm landowners and others so they can adopt them in their own operations is critical if Canada is to develop its resources sustainably, while at the same time conserving its wetlands and other
natural features,” Bob Grant, DUC’s Manitoba manager of operations, said in the release.
“Wetlands not only provide feeding and nesting sites for waterfowl and many other species, they also reduce the impacts of floods and droughts, filter water and store greenhouse gases that can otherwise add to climate change.”
Richardson’s $1 million contribution also supports a conservation easement program in DUC’s “priority areas” of western Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, to protect at-risk wetlands and associated uplands in perpetuity.
As well, Richardson’s funds will back a research project about “understanding social and economic constraints to the adoption of conservation practices and policies by governments and landowners, to help DUC and other groups determine how landowners and policymakers can best adopt environmentally sustainable practices.”
Winnipeg-based Monsanto Canada, meanwhile, on Thursday presented DUC with a $71,000 grant for expansion of DUC’s “Wetland Centres of Excellence” education program for schools in Manitoba’s Pembina Trails School Division. The money will also support such DUC programming at the Yorkton and Kelburn Sustainable Land Use Centre sites.
With the new funding from Monsanto, DUC said it will be able to expand its education awareness to students at Winnipeg’s Fort Richmond Collegiate and other high schools in the division who use the natural wetlands at Richardson Kelburn Farm as a study site and outdoor classroom.
Another key component is a mentoring program for Grade 4 students in the school division. In the spring and fall, experienced high school students lead classes of younger children on an “all expenses paid” wetland field trip at Kelburn, teaching them about wetlands, conservation and sustainability.
“With the Monsanto funds, we’ll be able to underwrite the cost of wetland field trips over the next five years at all three sites and provide the two new sites with the infrastructure needed to support their education programs,” said Rick Wishart, director of education for DUC.
“This will include field equipment, interpretive signage for walking trails and floating boardwalks to get students safely out to study a wetland. We are now seeking lead schools and teachers to take on the projects at the two new sites.”
“The educational programs DUC will deliver at these Wetland Centres of Excellence will provide a valuable opportunity to bring real life agricultural and conservation issues into the school curriculum in the communities where they exist,” Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan said in a Monsanto/DUC release.
“Many of the students attending these schools will be living on family farms in the future or their livelihood will depend on a strong and sustainable agricultural sector.”