USDA funds Missouri landowners to help birds migrating to Gulf

St. Louis, MO – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making about $2.7 million available to Missouri landowners to help migratory birds headed for the Gulf.

The Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative aims to encourage farmers and other landownders to create and enhance wetland habitat on bird migration routes.

Keith Jackson of the Missouri Department of Conservation says the goal is to provide alternative places for waterbirds to spend the winter, or for them to rest and find food on their way to the Gulf.

"And in spite of our efforts, there may be a significant number of birds that will still head to the Gulf, and may be negatively impacted by the things that are going on there."

Jackson says birds that arrive at the Gulf in good condition will have a better chance of surviving the habitat degradation caused by the oil spill.

State wildlife biologist Chris Hamilton with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service says in Missouri, the program is encouraging rice farmers to reflood their fields after harvest.

Funds will also be available for farmers in USDA's Wetlands Reserve Program to increase and improve waterbird habitat.

"If we did nothing at all, I think we would be remiss in stewardship for these species," says Hamilton.

Landowners have until August 1st to apply.