Top stories for Nov. 10, 2009
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Ducks Unlimited, business leaders come together to improve conservation
With important conservation decisions being made both out in the field and in the boardroom, DU hosted the first Ecoservices and Business Strategy Forum recently in Chicago. Titled "Ecopraxes," the meeting brought together corporate executives, conservation group representatives, local government, agriculture and ecosystem services market leaders to share their experiences and recommendations relating to ecosystem services valuation and developing ecosystem market projects.
The keynote address was presented by Mark Rey, Former Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment. Rey set the stage by describing the policy environment in which corporations are developing sustainability strategies.
Contributors included Doug Oberhelman, CEO elect of Caterpillar; Geoff Kneen, Vice President at Bayer CropScience; and Rick Merdan, Marketing Strategy Manager at NewPage Corp. John Tomke, President of Ducks Unlimited de Mexico and business leader in his own right, moderated the discussion that kept guests at the prestigious Chicago Club engaged and asking questions regarding their own positions in a rapidly changing environment.
Companies depend on the assets that healthy and diverse ecosystems provide such as freshwater supply, water purification, climate regulation, pollination, flood mitigation and storage, and biodiversity. Degradation of these "ecosystem assets," can threaten overall corporate performance while creating entirely new business opportunities and industries. Ducks Unlimited is engaging business, government and agriculture in a conversation about best practices and sustainability for everyone.
Perhaps the most striking takeaway from the evening was that all of these corporations, and others in the audience, have recognized that aggressive exploration of emerging markets and sustainability strategies are important for profit in many ways. For instance, not only does the potential for being a leader in carbon sequestration add to the bottom line, but end users are demanding that suppliers be as "green" as possible. Practices that work well for ducks can also be an effective marketing tool.
Water restrictions threaten waterfowl
Limited water resources in the Highland Lakes of Texas are driving the Lower Colorado River Authority to propose reductions in "interruptible" water, the lifeblood of rice farmers and other producers that rely on LCRA's irrigation districts in Matagorda, Colorado and Wharton counties. Ducks Unlimited representatives expressed their concern over the proposed restrictions at a public meeting on Oct. 20 in Matagorda.
"Ducks Unlimited is sensitive to the issue of water availability within the Colorado River watershed and realizes that there are many competing interests for water, but we urge the LCRA to recognize the importance of this water to agriculture and waterfowl conservation efforts on the Texas Coast," said Todd Merendino, manager of conservation programs.
The Texas Gulf Coast provides critically important wetland habitat for millions of migrating and wintering waterfowl, waterbirds, and shorebirds, including resident species like the mottled duck, which is in a long-term decline due to loss of wetland habitat. In 1991, with the assistance of private landowners, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, DU launched the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP). TPWP is a cost-share program for private landowners to restore and enhance wetlands on their properties along the Texas Gulf Coast.
To date in the three counties, private landowners have invested $1.1 million in conservation projects, and DU and partners have invested another $2.7 million.
Current waterfowl habitat sustainability estimates provide an already gloomy picture for waterfowl, projecting a 150,000-acre deficit of habitat on the Texas mid-coast. Without rice production, approximately 50,000 additional acres will be lost, pushing the deficit to 200,000 acres.
Wetlands, waterfowl benefit from tobacco settlement
Ducks Unlimited is among more than 100 non-profit groups to share $40 million from a class-action settlement with makers of chewing tobacco. DU was not a party to the initial lawsuit, but was selected by the state of California as a recipient for some of the funds.
"After telling the story of DU's mission and statewide work in California to conserve waterfowl habitats, we received $800,000 in settlement funds to continue this important conservation effort," said Dr. Rudolph Rosen, director of DU's Western Regional Office in Sacramento.
Settlement funds came about through a suit that pitted the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company and related entities against claimants who believed the company monopolized the market for moist smokeless tobacco products in California. Settlement money leftover after disbursement to claimants was distributed to nonprofit organizations. To satisfy claims from people who purchased small quantities, funds were distributed to charitable organizations rather than to the tobacco buyers themselves.
Rosen said all settlement funds will be deposited in a special Wetlands and Waterfowl Enhancement Account, to be used exclusively in California and in a fashion that is geographically comprehensive throughout the state for advocacy, regulatory or education work to conserve wetlands water, waterfowl or waterfowl habitats.