Ducks Unlimited works with private landowners, partners to conserve wetlands in Colorado’s San Luis Valley
Ducks Unlimited (DU) will join with private landowners and other conservation groups to enhance, restore and protect more than 13,000 acres of wetlands, riparian habitat and associated uplands along the Rio Grande River in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. DU and 20 local San Luis Valley conservation partners have been awarded their third $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant. The funds will be used to support land protection and restoration projects on 25 properties including state wildlife areas, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wetlands areas, and the Alamosa, Monte Vista and Baca national wildlife refuges, portions of which are open to the public on a seasonal basis.
“This grant and the wildlife habitat projects that will result from it are a testament to the commitment of all of our partners to protecting and improving the wetland resources of the San Luis Valley,” said Bob Sanders, conservation program manager for Ducks Unlimited. “This is our third large NAWCA grant for the protection and enhancement of the wetlands in the valley and our efforts are already evident on the ground.”
The projects are expected to take an additional two years to complete.
The San Luis Valley NAWCA grant will be paired with more than $3.5 million in matching funds for a total investment of $4.5 million. The matching funds provided by private landowners, and conservation organizations underscore the importance of and need for private dollars for conservation work in Colorado. NAWCA partnership grants play an important role in meeting the DU mission, from restoring wetlands that have been altered, to maintaining and enhancing water availability, to reducing soil erosion and the likelihood of floods.
DU worked with members of the San Luis Valley Wetlands Focus Area Committee to apply for and obtain the NAWCA grant. Ducks Unlimited’s partners on this grant include the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, Mineral County, the Gates Family Foundation, American Farmland Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM, The Nature Conservancy, the Orient Land Trust, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and seven private landowners.
“The generous and highly dedicated private landowners contributed more than $2.7 million in match for this grant,” Sanders said.
The San Luis Valley is widely recognized for its important migrating and breeding habitat for migratory birds. The valley’s continentally important wetlands provide critical migration and wintering stopover points for Central and Pacific flyway ducks, sandhill cranes, water birds and shorebirds. The area is also among the most productive breeding habitats in North America for numerous duck and colonial wading bird species.
In Washington, D.C., DU’s Governmental Affairs staff works with Congress in support of annual funding for NAWCA to continue the program’s waterfowl conservation success. The San Luis Valley Wetland Project spans and will benefit the Congressional district of Representative John Salazar who has been supportive of increased funding for NAWCA. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Colorado’s Senator Wayne Allard provides critical leadership in obtaining these federal funds. Colorado’s Senator Ken Salazar has also been supportive of funding for NAWCA.
NAWCA stimulates public-private partnerships in support of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The Act is a non-regulatory, incentive-based, voluntary and competitive habitat conservation grant program. NAWCA provides federal cost-share funding to protect, restore, and manage wetland habitats for wildlife. Many projects also provide outstanding recreational opportunities for people, from bird watching to hunting.
To date, NAWCA has helped fund more than 1,500 projects on over 20 million acres in all 50 states, every province of Canada and areas of Mexico. Thousands of partners, including private landowners, corporations and state governments have worked together to conserve wildlife habitat through NAWCA grants. For more information on NAWCA, go to www.ducks.org/nawca.