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Prairie Pothole Study: Corn Ethanol is Crowding Out Critters

January 14, 2010

SIOUX FALLS, SD - Government incentives and mandates to plant corn for ethanol are bringing some unintended consequences for wildlife, according to a study conducted for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). What once were native grasslands in the Prairie Pothole Region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, are increasingly becoming corn acreage, and NWF's research shows a significant decrease in grassland bird populations as a result.

University of Michigan graduate student Aviva Glaser is one of the report's authors and researchers. As more land is dedicated to corn production, she says, the populations of western meadowlarks, grasshopper sparrows and upland sandpipers decline.

"The increases in corn plantings have really affected the amount of habitat for wildlife, and what we've seen in our study is that it also affected bird populations."

Farmers aren't to blame, they're just following government policy, adds Glaser.

"There are a lot of incentives for farmers to plant their land in corn, but there aren't as many incentives to put their land in conservation."

The report recommends that mandates and financial supports for corn ethanol be reviewed and possibly phased out. NWF is also recommending conservation programs be strengthened so farmers are financially rewarded for preserving native grasslands.

The full report, Corn Ethanol and Wildlife, is at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - SD