Results of a modeling workshop concerning preservation and protection of wetlands in North Dakota

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In a recently signed letter, the Governor of North Dakota and the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks charged a joint state-federal study group with examination of two separate questions: 1) mitigation for the Garrison Diversion Project; and 2) planning for long-range protection and preservation of fish and wildlife habitat in North Dakota. The cochair for this study group (the Secretary of the Interior's Field Representative, Denver, Colorado, and the Natural Resources Coordinator for North Dakota) further articulated the charge concerning the second of these two questions to include three steps: 1) development of a general plan for preservation and protection of migratory waterfowl and their associated wetland habitat; 2) a comprehensive analysis of alternative strategies, including opportunities and constraints, for achieving the goals articulated in Step 1; and 3) design of a coordinated state-federal public information program to assist in plan implementation.

In order to obtain input from a variety of interests, the joint study group initiated step 2 activities with a five-day workshop in Bismarck, N. D.; December 8-12, 1980. The objectives of the workshop were: 1) to identify alternative strategies for preserving and enhancing waterfowl production habitat in North Dakota; 2) to identify opportunities and constraints associated with those alternatives; and 3) to promote communication and understanding of the implications of those alternatives for all affected parties. To achieve these objectives, the workshop utilized a group of concepts and techniques collectively known as Adaptive Environmental Assessment (AEA).

Developed by Dr. C. S. Holling and his co-workers at the University of British Columbia, the AEA process involves planners, managers, scientists, and other interested parties in a structures atmosphere whose focus is the construction and examination of a computerized simulation model of the resource system under consideration. The modeling process is used to promote communication, identify pertinent issues, identify key data gaps and uncertainties, direct research efforts to fill those gaps, and explore the possible consequences of various management alternatives.

The workshop, which was facilitated by the AEA Group of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), was attended by approximately 25 invited participants representing a variety of interests concerned with the wetlands protection issue in North Dakota. During the week workshop participants conceptualized and constructed a computerized simulation model incorporating many of the hydrologic, agricultural, and wildlife aspects of the wetlands issue. During the process of constructing this model and examining its behavior, participants identified several interesting alternative strategies that may prove useful in an overall wetland protection program, along with a variety of constraints associated with each.

Perhaps the most interesting of these alternatives revolve around the idea that there may be a variety of cases in which water can be retained on the land, with concommitant benefits both for wildlife and flood control, without detriment to agricultural productivity. Examples of this kind of activity include flooding of previously drained Type I wetlands in summer fallow areas, installation of smaller drains in Type I and III wetlands to reduce the rate at which water runs off in the spring, and use of strategically located gates in drainage channels associated with the state highway system to slow runoff and create wetland habitat.

Several other alternatives discussed at the workshop are related to the notion of using available, uncommitted water supplied to enhance or create wetlands. Several cases were cited in which more certain water supplies would be useful in increasing waterfowl production or reducing disease problems, especially in dry years. Water for such purposes might come from a variety of current of proposed water development projects, both large and small scale.

Finally, the potential for re-establishment of "unsuccessfully" drained (i.e., not consistently usable for agricultural purposes) wetlands was discussed at some length. There are apparently substantial acreages of such wetlands in North Dakota and a program to acquire and rehabilitate them might be of considerable utility.

The workshop was thus successful in accomplishing its first two objectives--identification of alternative strategies, opportunities, and constraints. However, it would be naive to suppose that any of the alternatives discussed offers a complete, simple solution to the wetlands issue in North Dakota. The most important result of the workshop may therefore be that which was accomplished relative to the third objective--promotion of communication and understanding. It was gratifying and encouraging to see the spirit of communication and cooperation that developed by the end of the workshop. The fact that representatives of many of the interests concerned with the wetlands issue participated in an open exchange of ideas and information marks an important step forward. We believe that it is imperative that this cooperative attitude be maintained, and that there are a variety of ways in which this might be accomplished. Perhaps the simplest would be a small-scale pilot project and research effort to determine the effects of wetland maintenance on summer fallow areas. Such a research program would provide not only useful information, but an opportunity for many of the affected interests to begin working toward mutually acceptable solutions to the overall wetlands issue.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Results of a modeling workshop concerning preservation and protection of wetlands in North Dakota
Year Published 1981
Language English
Publisher U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Energy and Land Use Team
Publisher location Fort Collins, CO
Description 61 p.
Country United States
State North Dakota
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