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$4 million available for private landowners adding winter migratory bird habitat

BY Randy Zellers

ON 06-21-2023


June 21, 2023

Randy Zellers

Assistant Chief of Communications

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Private Lands Habitat Division is looking for landowners who want to put more waterfowl and shorebird habitat on the ground this winter, and thanks to a new initiative through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, there’s an additional $4 million in incentives to landowners to make it happen.

According to a release from the NRCS, the additional money is coming from the Migratory Bird Resurgence Initiative, an investment of nearly $15 million across nine states with Arkansas farmers playing a key role. The program will focus practices that can take place on working lands so landowners will still be able to profit from their agricultural crops while implementing steps to benefit migratory birds.

“The practices we are focusing on in Arkansas are similar to some of the conservation practices we have already been doing for the (Waterfowl Rice Initiative Conservation Enhancement) program,” Bubba Groves, private land biologist in the AGFC’s Monticello Regional Office, said. “Except this practice will apply statewide and can be used on other agricultural lands than rice production. There’s also no expectation of providing any public hunting opportunities, this is strictly about flooding fields in winter for waterfowl and other migratory birds who depend on this type of habitat.”

Groves says rice fields that farmers perform stubble management and delay tilling until spring will still rank very highly in the selection process, but soybeans and other crops may be produced during the growing season, so long as the land can be flooded post-harvest. The tilling of fields post harvest reduces available waste grain for wintering waterfowl, and this program focuses on increasing that food and water for birds migrating to and through Arkansas.

“Depending on the land and habitat provided, a landowner may be able to get up to $95 per acre of additional profit per year for their working farm,” Groves said. “But the deadline to enroll is July 14, so interested landowners should sign up fast. Just contact your local NRCS office for an application and details about payment rates.”

By delaying tilling fields until spring and flooding their fields, landowners can greatly increase the amount of food available for ducks, geese and other migratory birds.

Landowners can visit for more information about their local NRCS office and applications.

They may also contact one of the AGFC’s private lands habitat biologists for guidance on this and many other programs to enhance habitat on private land. Garrick Dugger is chief of the AGFC’s newly formed Private Land Habitat Division, a result of the agency’s increased focus on establishing more partnerships with private landowners under its new strategic plan The Natural State Tomorrow.

“We’ve had private land biologists for a long time at the AGFC, but we’re really doubling down on building more relationships with the landowners we have in the state who want to help improve wildlife habitat on their property,” Dugger said. “Our staff of private land biologists work closely with many different agencies to not only help landowners learn about what they can do on their property, but also to help pay for a lot of the work to make it happen.”

Visit for more information about the AGFC’s Private Lands Habitat Division and how to contact a biologist in your area.



White-fronted geese in field
A new incentive for migratory birds can offer landowners up to $95 an acre of additional income if they provide winter habitat for waterfowl in their fields.

Water in field
By delaying tilling fields until spring and flooding their fields, landowners can greatly increase the amount of food available for ducks, geese and other migratory birds.



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