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Policy News 2.22


Top stories for June 1, 2010
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Members of Congress announce $10.1M in wetlands conservation funds for Arkansas

Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and Reps. Mike Ross, Marion Berry and Vic Snyder recently announced that Arkansas will receive more than $10 million in funding under the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) to help restore and protect 8,500 acres of wetlands in the Mississippi River Valley, Arkansas River Valley and Red River Valley.

DU CEO Dale Hall (far right) and DU Director of Public Policy Dan Wrinn (far left) met recently with Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln at the Capitol to discuss the importance of WRP to duck hunters in Arkansas and across the nation.

"This funding will preserve wetlands throughout Arkansas and help prevent flooding, improve water quality and protect wildlife," said Sen. Lincoln, chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. "Conservation of our wetlands is vital to preserving our environment for future generations."

Sen. Pryor echoed Lincoln's sentiments: "Wetlands are a valuable commodity to our state, providing multiple benefits to people and wildlife. These funds will go far to conserve our wetlands so future generations can enjoy the protections and recreational activities they provide."

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funds will be used to purchase easements from landowners and carry out restoration work, which includes surveying land, building and maintaining levees to regulate water depth and planting bottomland trees. This funding is in addition to the $4 million already allocated to Arkansas for wetlands conservation and restoration in 2010.

Rep. Ross highlighted the many benefits these funds will bring to the state, including job creation. "Our natural resources, including our wetlands, are what set Arkansas apart from other states," said Ross. "I am pleased to help announce these federal investments, which will help us save and create jobs by restoring and protecting our wetlands, while ensuring we continue to preserve the beauty of our state. I will continue fighting for critical federal investments that preserve our natural resources here in The Natural State."

Rep. Berry expressed his commitment to the NRCS, in part due to its past success in conserving Arkansas' valuable natural resources. "This is a huge step in preserving some of the most beautiful river valleys in the country," said Berry. "The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Arkansas has worked passionately for 75 years to maintain these wetlands and to keep The Natural State clean and beautiful for generations to come. I will continue to push for funding that protects our lands in Congress."

"This land conservation program helps Arkansas restore and preserve our wetlands," said Snyder. "Because of these efforts, we will be able to protect our wildlife habits for the long term."

"WRP is critical to the future of wetlands conservation and waterfowl hunting in Arkansas and across the United States," said Dan Wrinn, director of public policy at DU's Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C. "On behalf of the members, volunteers and supporters of DU, we commend these members of Congress for their efforts to strengthen and improve this vital waterfowl conservation program."

The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary program that offers landowners the opportunity to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property. The NRCS, an agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetlands restoration efforts. The goal of the program is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled int he program.

NAWCA grant brings restoration, enhancement to California duck club wetlands

The popular Rancho Visalia Duck Club in California will soon be able to accommodate even more waterfowl thanks to a restoration and enhancement project funded by a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant.

The Rancho Visalia Duck Club maintains approximately 120 acres of wetlands and associated habitat in the Tulare Basin of California, an area that has been managed as wildlife habitat for the past 80 years, with an emphasis on waterfowl hunting. The purpose of the project is to enhance the 120 acres of wetlands and 78 acres of associated upland habitat, and to restore two acres of wetlands and associated uplands. Work will be completed using landowner contributions and grant funds obtained by DU through NAWCA.

Tulare Basin wetland, Rancho Visalia Duck Club, Calif.

The project will provide critical habitat for migratory waterfowl, such as northern pintail, green-winged teal and northern shoveler. In addition, shorebirds, colonial wading birds—including sandhill cranes and the endangered tricolored blackbird—could benefit from enhancement of these habitats.

Rudy Rosen, director of DU's Western Regional Office in Sacramento, Calif., stressed the value of programs like NAWCA in DU's conservation project planning efforts. "With the help of NAWCA grants like the one going toward the Rancho Visalia Duck Club project, we have a much greater chance of achieving our mission to protect and restore critical wetland habitat, not only today, but for future generations," said Rosen.

NAWCA conserves North America's waterfowl, fish and wildlife resources while producing a variety of environmental and economic benefits. Since its creation in 1989, conservationists—from private landowners to large corporations—have leveraged the federal share of NAWCA, which is more than $1 billion, with more than $3 billion in partner funds. Federal dollars that go to NAWCA are often tripled by state and local partners. More than 25 million acres of vital wildlife habitat have been conserved thanks to this program.

Wisconsin passes legislation to improve wetland restoration permitting

Ducks Unlimited volunteers and staff recently teamed with other Wisconsin wetlands conservation partners to pass legislation improving the permitting process for federally sponsored wetland restoration projects.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signs wetland restoration permitting legislation into law. (L to R) Rep. Black staff member; Lon Knoedler, at-large Ducks Unlimited board member; Don Hammas, WI Wildlife Federation; Rep. Spencer Black; Gov. Doyle (seated); Rep. Black staff member; Jeff Nania, WI Waterfowl Association; Erin O’Brien, WI Wetlands Association; Becky Able, WI Wetlands Association; Sen. Wirch Staff member. Photo courtesy of Kyle Magyera, WI Wetlands Association

Senate Bill 661 authorizes the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) to develop an expedited permit review and approval process for wetland restoration projects sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies spend millions of federal dollars to restore wetlands in Wisconsin each year. However, federal agencies and their restoration partners, including DU, have cited permitting delays as a barrier to completing projects in a timely and cost-effective manner. These problems also reduce the amount of wetland restoration that can occur in the long term.

DU worked on this legislation and the negotiations with WI DNR and a host of partners, including the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and Wisconsin Waterfowl Association. DU State Chairman Nels Swenson presented testimony in support of SB661 before the Senate subcommittee, and later, working with Gildo Tori, director of public policy for DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office, presented written testimony to the House.

Both bills passed both houses of the state legislature with unanimous support. Partners in other states are using both bills as models to improve wetland protection and restoration across the nation. On May 18, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed the legislation into law, and DU At-Large Board Member Lon Knoedler was present for the celebration.

Ducks Unlimited receives prestigious Coastal America Partnership awards

Ducks Unlimited was recognized recently for its contributions to the well-being of coastal habitat.

The Coastal America Partnership Award—the highest award given for partnership efforts—recognizes outstanding leadership and collaborative multi-agency and multi-stakeholder efforts that leverage and combine resources and ecosystems. DU received two 2009 Coastal America Partnership awards for its work on the Atlantic Coast.

Hail Cove is a key waterfowl stopover area at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Kent County, Md. It contains more than 108 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, which are vital to supporting aquatic wildlife including the foraging needs of migratory waterfowl. DU, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Waterfowl Festival and numerous other partners joined together to restore a narrowing strip of shoreline that separates Hail Cove from the adjacent Chester River. The narrowing shoreline is the last remaining protection for the SAV beds in Hail Cove, making this project a critical one for DU in Maryland.

At the Hail Cove ceremony Kurt Dyroff (left), manager of conservation programs at DU's Annapolis Office, and Dan Ashe, deputy director of policy for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo courtesy of Phil Warren, Ducks Unlimited

The project was successfully completed in the fall of 2009 using a unique combination of techniques, including the installation of low-profile, segmented headland breakwaters, restoration of an oyster reef and reconstruction of the natural shoreline. The stone structures will reduce wave energy and protect the shoreline from future erosion, as well as encourage deposition of sand and sediment along the shoreline. Native marsh grasses were then planted by local area elementary students and other volunteers to help further stabilize the shoreline.

Coastal America also recognized DU as a member of the Connecticut Tidal Wetland Restoration Team. The group is a multi-agency (federal, state and municipal) and multi-stakeholder (Connecticut College, Save The Sound and DU) that has partnered for nearly 30 years to advance the restoration of degraded tidal wetlands. Partners provided expertise, critical data collection (including tide studies), vegetation surveys, engineering expertise and funding to accomplish many important projects.

The Connecticut Tidal Wetland Restoration Team is responsible for tidal wetland flow restoration that has resulted in the restoration of 1,148 acres at 71 sites since 1980. Examples of the team's work include impounded marshes, filled marshes and restoration of the Fletchers Creek landfill, which was originally a productive tidal marsh. The public benefits from tidal wetland restoration in many ways. Healthy systems eliminate fire hazards, restore scenic vistas and property value, eliminate mosquitoes and eliminate water-quality degradation caused by diking and draining.


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