The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Wildlife Mississippi, and other partners have announced a Winter Water for Wildlife pilot project that will assist private landowners in the Mississippi Delta with incentive payments to flood crop fields and manage wetland areas to provide habitat for migrating water birds. 

This will include existing Wetlands Reserve Program areas. 

The goal of the Winter Water for Wildlife project is to raise awareness among Delta landowners about the importance of winter water in flooded agricultural areas and conservation program lands to provide habitat for priority wildlife species.

The three project focal areas are:

•Bolivar— lands north of Highway 82, east of Highway 1, south of Highway 32, and west of Highway 61.

•Sunflower — lands north of Highway 82, east of Highway 3, and west of Highway 49E. (Landowners in the Sunflower focal area will not be required to pump groundwater to flood fields to participate in the program, but will receive a lower incentive rate.)

•Tunica — lands in Tunica County, east of Highway 61.

 Landowners must submit an application before June 1, 2014, for project consideration. All applications will be competitively ranked, based on potential habitat benefits.

Providing dependable wetland habitat in working landscapes such as the Mississippi Delta is sometimes difficult, the agencies note, because of the need of agricultural producers to maintain profitable land use.

The Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), a USDA-NRCS program that provided financial incentives for private landowners to flood agricultural fields during the winter, was extremely successful during the years it was funded (2010-2013).

Although several studies associated with the MBHI demonstrated the potential for providing quality habitat in working landscapes, funding for the program has been discontinued.

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While increasing the amount of winter water on the landscape of the Mississippi Delta is a high priority that was addressed by the MBHI, agency officials say, it didn’t address key issues such as strategic targeting of habitat acres and cultural perceptions against managed flooding that may hinder long-term sustainability of such practices.