Giving Compass' Take:

• H. Claire Brown explains how outdated maps of wetlands mean that subsidies intended to protect wetlands may go to farms that destroy them. 

• How can funders work to improve environmental protection policies like this one that may fall short? 

• Learn about donors working to protect the environment

Prairie potholes, it turns out, are shallow wetlands in the Dakotas, Iowa, and Minnesota that were formed by melting glaciers about 10,000 years ago. They fill up in the springtime and dry out during the summer. Perhaps most significantly, they’re really important duck breeding grounds.

Congress decided to make taxpayer subsidies contingent on a modicum of environmental stewardship. The methods the government used to determine what is and isn’t a wetland changed over time, but even though pretty much everyone acknowledges that the maps created before 1996 missed a lot of important duck territory, USDA still wants to rely on old data to determine what is and isn’t a prairie pothole. What this means is that we may end up subsidizing farms that fill in wetlands, even though that’s exactly what the policy was designed to prevent. And it may all add up to less farmland for ducks.

Read the full article about outdated wetland maps by H. Claire Brown at The New Food Economy.