A cattle rancher in southwestern Manitoba is restoring 63 acres (25.5 hectares) of farmland for waterfowl and wildlife habitat, in the biggest conservation agreement of its kind with Ducks Unlimited Canada.
“It’s perfect for us,” says Sean Murphy, who farms 2,500 acres (1,012 hectares) with his family west of Souris. “From both a financial and a conservation angle, it works with what we’re doing in our operation.”
To restore natural water levels on Murphy’s land, DUC has filled a ditch dug in the 1970s which drained to Plum Creek. The project will increase the marsh ecosystem, providing new food and protection for ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and other species of birds and animals. It’s the largest project to-date under DUC Manitoba’s 10-year wetland restoration program.
“I’m thinking this will be great if we’re heading into a dry weather cycle and we can hold the water on the land for our cattle for another month or two each summer,” explains Murphy, who retains the option to hay the acres when feasible.
Murphy’s five children urged him to certify the cow/calf operation as organic in 2021. They also helped convince him to work with DUC on restoring and conserving acres that were not especially productive.
“I was hesitant,” he recalls. “But It’s not the same Ducks Unlimited that my father knew. There’s a new way of looking at things.”
In 2020-2021, DUC delivered over $9-million in conservation programs that directly benefitted landowners and rural communities in southern Manitoba. In addition to restoring ponds, marshes and wetlands, DUC delivers forage, hay and grazing opportunities. Many of these programs provide incentive payments directly to farmers and ranchers who support local businesses.
“We value our relationship with all landowners,” says DUC Manager Provincial Operations – Manitoba, Mark Francis, “and provide science-backed programs to benefit everyone. We’re thrilled to work with Sean and his family on this important conservation project.”
The Murphy farm is located within the Prairie Pothole Region, an area spanning western Canada and several American states which contains thousands of shallow pools left behind after the last ice age. These ponds and marshes help regulate water levels during flooding and droughts, filter water and provide important habitat for waterfowl and wildlife. In some areas, 70% of prairie pothole wetlands have been destroyed over the last 100 years by changing land use.
For more information, contact:
Communications Specialist – Manitoba
Ducks Unlimited Canada