Top stories for April 6, 2010
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NAWCA grant to help save one of nation's top waterfowl migration areas
Nebraska is commonly known for its seemingly endless fields of corn and great college football. Many people may not know, however, that it is also home to one of North America's top migration spots for waterfowl—the Platte River and associated wetlands in the western part of the state. And thanks to a recent $725,000 grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), DU can play a leading role in protecting and restoring this critical habitat. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this area provides habitat for more than 2 million ducks and 500,000 geese during annual migrations.
"The Platte River is a high priority in nearly all conservation plans developed by DU and its partners," said Steve Donovan, DU's manager of conservation programs for Nebraska. "Wetlands along the Platte are important because they are needed by millions of migratory birds each year."
Donovan cited flood control systems and invasive plant species as significant conservation challenges in the area and said that NAWCA money will help the effort to curb these threats.
Ducks Unlimited volunteers and staff are critical to maintaining this program. DU supporters should contact their senators today and ask them to support funding for NAWCA by signing on to a letter being circulated by Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and John Thune (R-S.D.).
Ducks Unlimited members and supporters need to let their senators know we want them to support NAWCA. It's good for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters!
White House to host land conservation conference
Sportsmen, conservationists and other outdoors enthusiasts are making their way to the nation's capital.
On April 16, the White House will host the "America's Great Outdoors" conference to discuss land conservation and ways to reconnect Americans with the outdoors. The conference will feature speakers such as Chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Participants will include an invited group of hunters and anglers, ranchers, farmers, state and local government officials, tribal leaders, public lands experts, conservationists, youth leaders and business representatives from across the country. Several of DU's leaders have been invited to participate.
According to Sutley, more than 2 million acres of land are lost to development each year, and children are spending less time outdoors than ever before. Sutley said the conference will give people heavily involved with local conservation initiatives an opportunity to voice their ideas to the government.
"Modern-day land conservation has to continue to be driven from each community," said Sutley.
Dr. Alan Wentz, DU's senior group manager for conservation and marketing, agreed. "It is encouraging to see the federal government host a conference to discuss this," said Wentz. "DU staff and volunteers are working on these issues constantly. If we are going to make the headway required to sustain waterfowl when faced with shrinking amounts of habitat, we need active partnership from the federal government. Having federal officials hold high-level discussions with leading outdoor enthusiasts is a step in the right direction."
South Dakota waterfowlers have new place to hunt; waterfowl have new habitat
Thanks to Ducks Unlimited, the State of South Dakota now has new property near Woonsocket that will provide essential waterfowl breeding and migration habitat and will be open to public hunting this fall. DU sold the property to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department after working to get the land enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
Of the 400 acres on the property, 390 were enrolled in WRP. As part of the restoration plan, DU successfully restored six wetlands, seeded 100 acres of former cropland to grass and controlled the noxious weeds on the property. The restored habitat will benefit ducks and provide significant hunting opportunities.
"Projects like this are exactly why it's great to be a Ducks Unlimited member in South Dakota," said Don Aarstad, DU's South Dakota volunteer state chairman. "The investments DU makes in South Dakota provide quality habitat not only for waterfowl, but also for pheasants, deer and a host of other species."
Outdoor Heritage projects adding habitat
Ducks Unlimited began enhancement of another shallow-lake project funded in part by the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund, as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
The new water control structures to be added will allow the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) field staff to actively manage water levels in Curtis Lake, near Marshall, Minn. This enhancement will be especially important for migrating and brood-rearing waterfowl.
Bill Schauna, DNR assistant area wildlife manager in Marshall, credited DU for much of the project's progress.
"DU played a vital role in this project by providing wetland engineering design that will give us the ability to temporarily draw down Curtis Lake," said Schauna. "A drawdown and fish barrier will improve critical habitat for waterfowl and prevent invasive fish such as carp from reentering the lake. These efforts will ultimately improve water quality and clarity."