Policy: Watershed Issues

Click on one of the issues below and learn more about Ducks Unlimited's public policy work in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. Additional information is available in the GLARO Resource Library.

Great Lakes Chesapeake Bay
Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Chesapeake Bay Agreement 2000
Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Restoration Act DU's Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem Initiative
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact 2008 Farm Bill Funding for Chesapeake Bay
Healing Our Waters Coalition DU's Involvement in the Chesapeake Bay
DU's Position on Asian Carp  




Great Lakes Priority Areas - click to learn moreGreat Lakes Programs

Great Lakes Regional Collaboration

The Great Lakes is the largest fresh water system in the world with roughly 18 percent of the world's freshwater, that millions drink from everyday. The threat to the quality of the lakes, low water levels, contaminated sediment, and the impact of more than 160 non-native species signifies how important it is that there is a commitment to the long term health of the lakes.

In May 2004, President Bush issued a Presidential Executive Order for the Great Lakes that called for increased federal coordination and a Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. The GLRC was to develop a strategy for protecting and restoring the Great Lakes. For over a year more than 1,500 stakeholders worked together to form the GLRC and to develop a strategy for protecting and restoring the Great Lakes. Among the recommendations were goals and actions that are specific to restoring and protecting habitat with wetlands being a main focal point. The GLRC addressed several issues of concern consisting of:

  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Habitat conservation and species management
  • Coastal health
  • Areas of concern
  • Non-point source pollution
  • Toxic pollutants
  • Sound information base and representative indicators
  • Sustainability

Through the GLRC, work is being done to promote healthier lakes and sustainable ecosystems so they continue to provide more than 35 million Americans with drinking water, food, recreational opportunities and transportation.




Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act

The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act (GLFWRA) has been set forth to establish goals for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program in the Great Lakes and requires the Service to undertake a number of activities specifically related to fisheries. Since 1990 the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act has been successful at building partnerships among state, federal, tribal and provincial management agencies for the cooperative conservation, enhancement and restoration of Great Lakes wildlife and waterfowl species. Through the GLFWRA, emphasis has shifted from the study of species-habitat-restoration needs to the implementation of restoration projects at 32 study-recommendation sites. In 2006, $9.4 million was given for a grant program to help restore the Great Lakes and the Fish and Wildlife habitat to be sustained. An addition $4.6 million was awarded for new regional projects to be carried out by the USFWS.

Ducks Unlimited's International Conservation Plan lists the Great Lakes as a high priority, as it is home to more than 3 million waterfowl that either nest in or use the Great Lakes wetlands during some portion of the year. The restoration work done in the Great Lakes benefits waterfowl, other migratory birds and other wildlife species, and it also benefits hunters and non-hunters alike.




Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact

In 2001, the Great Lakes Governors and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec signed the Great Lakes Charter Annex, which laid out a process to develop basin-wide binding agreements designed to protect the water resources of the Great Lakes for future generations. This led to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, approved in 2005, to foster economic development through sustainable use and responsible management of the basin waters and to prevent future diversions of water out of the Basin. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact is the companion legislation that would enact the provisions of the Water Resources Agreement.

The primary objective of the Compact is to eliminate further degradation of the Great Lakes ecosystems and waterways. Also, the Compact will provide a comprehensive and legally enforceable standard for approving proposals for new large-scale water withdrawals of the Great Lakes Basin waters. The Great Lakes is a single hydrological unit and its waters support a variety of uses, including those by wildlife and waterfowl. Each of the Great Lakes states is required to do the following upon signing the Compact:

  • Inventory state water resources and sources of existing water withdrawals, and share this information through a common database
  • Adopt an ecosystem-based, adaptive management approach using periodic cumulative assessments of water withdrawal and diversion impacts on basin water resources
  • Provide enforcement measures via administrative or legal proceedings

Ducks Unlimited was a member of the Annex 2001 Advisory Team. We recognize the importance of developing a sound water-management policy as a critical component for the health of wetlands, wildlife and people throughout the Great Lakes region. Efforts to protect the future availability of water in the Great Lakes basin are critical to maintaining the health of this ecosystem. Ducks Unlimited endorses the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and encourages ratification by the State Legislatures and Congress.

For more information, please visit www.cglg.org.




Healing Our Waters Coalition

In May 2004 the Healing Our Waters Coalition (HOW) met with 70 leading environmentalists, ecologists, scientists and academicians to outline a plan for restoring and protecting the Great Lakes over a two-day "summit." In this time these founding members decided on an agenda that helps identify several major threats, and actions the federal government should take to help protect and enhance what is left of the Great Lakes. The first step in achieving the mission of HOW is increased public education nationwide on the consequences of degradation to the Great Lakes, and the value of restoration. From there HOW is asking the federal government to provide $20 billion in new funding to be managed in partnership with a $10-billion contribution from states to be used to support environmental sound infrastructures to improve monitoring and evaluation, to increase state and federal capacity and restore habitat. The following are 10 goals set out by HOW to achieve by 2015 for the restoration of the Great Lakes:

  • Remove 500 failing dams that pose a health risk
  • Eliminate beach closings by reducing sewer overflow incidents
  • Support development of renewable-energy portfolio standards
  • Expand Great Lakes wetlands by at least 1 million acres
  • Shift and target federal funding to benefit the Great Lakes by rewarding stewardship on agriculture and forestry lands
  • Eliminate airborne pollution by implementing controls to achieve 90-percent mercury reduction
  • Adopt appropriate water-quality indicators, implement a comprehensive monitoring program and fully enforce standards
  • Identify, develop and implement a plan to restore the Great Lakes from established invasive species, with an emphasis on effective eradication and control methods
  • Establish a deadline of 2015 for complete cleanup of U.S. areas of concern and additional critical toxic hotspots within the Great Lakes Basin and establish clear responsibility and accountability with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office as the lead authority
  • Sustain a systematic effort to protect and restore the Great Lakes

For more information on the Healing Our Waters Coalition, please visit www.healthylakes.org.

Ducks Unlimited is a founding member of the Healing Our Waters coalition and has been on the Steering Committee since its inception. We provide on-the-ground restoration experience and technical and scientific input back to HOW, as well as political and advocacy experience and influence. We have received three HOW grants to advance policies that contribute to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem.




Ducks Unlimited's position on Asian Carp in the Great Lakes

Ducks Unlimited is non-profit wetlands conservation organization with more than 650,000 members nationwide, and approximately 200,000 members in the Great Lakes states. Our mission is to conserve wetlands and associated habitats for the benefit of waterfowl, people and other wildlife.

Non-native invasive plants and animals have a long history of negatively impacting ecosystems. The Great Lakes have been particularly vulnerable due to the many vectors leading into, and out of, the lakes. Exotic plants such as purple loosestrife, flowering rush and common reed (Phragmites australis) are recent invaders that have reduced wetland productivity for wildlife and people. Exotic animals that have impacted wetlands have been minimal, but the common carp, introduced in the late 1800s to the US, has had a major negative impact on wetlands. Common carp thrive in shallow wetlands where their activity uproots native vegetation and increases turbidly, thereby decreasing productivity and quality of the wetlands.

Common carp

Four species of recently-introduced carp are now on the verge of invading the Great Lakes through man-made connections between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. Already known to have devastating impacts on the Mississippi River ecosystem, these fish species now threaten the Great Lakes. DU is especially concerned about two of those four species that have received little attention. Grass carp (white amur) and black carp are quite different from the silver and bighead carp that have received most of the notoriety. Grass carp are herbivores and eat their weight in vegetation daily. They are long-lived and have great potential to cause further degradation to the shallow water bays/wetlands in the Great Lakes. These shallow bays and coastal wetlands provide important feeding areas for waterfowl and nursery areas for fishes. For example, submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) in Lake St. Clair provides key food resources for approximately 150,000 canvasbacks and tens of thousands of redheads, scaup and other diving ducks each fall and spring. If SAV abundance further declines due to grass carp, one of the most important mid-migration areas for waterfowl in North America will be lost.

Black carp feed on mollusks and snails and therefore also compete with waterfowl for food resources. They also have the potential to negatively impact populations of native mussels, already stressed by other exotic competitors such as zebra and quagga mussels.

Black carp

DU encourages federal, state and local agencies and public groups to work together to immediately implement a short term strategy to prevent Asian carp migration into the Great Lakes, and develop a long-term solution that would prevent exotic invasive species from traveling between two of the nations key watersheds: the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River systems. If carp are successful in invading the Great Lakes system, considerable resources currently dedicated to natural resource conservation stand to be diverted to strategies needed to mitigate impacts on fisheries and water recreation. Eliminating the impacts of exotic invasive species is a key strategy to protect and restore the Great Lakes, as stated in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration's Restoration Strategy that DU contributed greatly to and supports.




Chesapeake Bay priority areas - click to learn moreChesapeake Bay Programs



Chespeake Bay Agreement 2000

Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 53,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. This habitat is vital to the migrating and wintering black ducks, mallards, canvasbacks and Canada geese that rely on the Bay. Ducks Unlimited is a leader in public policy efforts in the Bay watershed states and partners with various federal, state, local and nonprofit organizations to advance our goals.




Ducks Unlimited's Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem Initiative

The Chesapeake Bay has lost approximately half of the wetlands and half of the riparian base, which has led to the decline in water quality and bay grass, as well as a 70-80-percent decline in waterfowl production. The Bay region is one of the most significant migration and wintering areas for black ducks, mallards, canvasbacks and Canada geese in the Atlantic Flyway. Ducks Unlimited places equal significance on breeding, migrating and wintering goals for waterfowl. The main focus of the Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem Initiative is to fulfill the annual life-cycle needs of waterfowl by restoring, enhancing, protecting and managing wetlands and waterfowl habitat while also working to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Initiative is divided into four sections consisting of the Upper Chesapeake, Lower Chesapeake, Potomac and Lower Susquehanna regions. To learn more about these areas, please visit GLARO's Priority Areas page.




2008 Farm Bill Funding for the Chesapeake Bay

The 2008 Farm Bill dramatically increases funding authorization for conservation practices by farmers in the Bay watershed with the new Chesapeake Bay Program for Nutrient Reduction and Sediment Control. The new funding is authorized at $188 million over the next four years and will provide financial assistance to producers to minimize excess nutrients and sediment in order to restore, preserve, and protect the Chesapeake Bay. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will implement these new programs and the initial funding will be put into four critical sub-watersheds: Susquehanna, Shenandoah, Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Ducks Unlimited continues to work with the USDA to advance conservation programs on private lands that restore important fish and wildlife habitat and improve water quality through the reduction and control of nutrients and sediments. Ducks Unlimited believes the best USDA programs to meet those needs are the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Small Watershed Rehabilitation Program (SWRP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP).

Additional Farm Bill resources are available in the GLARO Resource Library. Be sure to check out our Getting it Done in the Chesapeake Bay (PDF) booklet.




Ducks Unlimited's Involvement in the Chesapeake Bay

Ducks Unlimited is actively working to restore and conserve natural resources and wetlands communities across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. DU's talented scientists, biologists and engineers in the Chesapeake Bay states are conserving vital wetlands to provide habitat for waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. Ducks Unlimited also has a Government Affairs Representative advocating for the ducks in these states' capitals and Washington, D.C. Read more about DU in D.C.


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