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Jun 29, 2010 6:25 PM by Kate Mundy

Farms As Expanded Habitat for Migratory Birds

The crude disaster could impact migratory birds this fall and winter. So, incentives are being offered right now, to turn farmland into alternative habitats.

More than 50-million migratory birds will be traveling south in the coming months. The new initiative will develop inland habitat using farmland in 8 states including Louisiana and all of Acadiana.

Experts say birds will instinctively head to the marshes before flying over the Gulf of Mexico and that could be a terrible move. "Once they get to the coastlines they're gonna run into trouble," said Iota farmer Gerard Frey.

So, Frey is offering up one-thousand acres of his crawfish and rice farm to use for expanded habitat. It's something he couldn't afford to do without an incentive from the government. "It's not feasible for us at all to try to do this on our own," said Frey.

After crawfish season, it heats up quick and crawfish ponds drain fast. Frey estimates it will cost $15,000 to $20,000 a week just to keep them filled.

The plan is to keep 2 to 6 inches of water in the ponds through March to entice birds to stop before it's too late. "They need to stop over, they need food, they need water, they need places to rest," said Jack Haller, District Conservationist with NRCS. 

The USDA is working with state and private agencies, signing up farmers now to get 150-thousand acres along the migratory path.  More than a million dollars will be available for the program here in Louisiana. Just in Acadia Parish the first day of the program, more than 10-thousand acres were identified. Sign-up ends August first.

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