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Top stories for Feb. 23, 2010
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Ducks Unlimited remembers conservation luminaries

The waterfowl community lost two leaders in conservation this past weekend, as Sam Hamilton, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Harvey Nelson, long-time wetlands and waterfowl manager, passed away.

Ducks Unlimited was saddened to learn of the sudden death of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton on Saturday, Feb. 20.

"Sam was a strong partner, a great leader for fish and wildlife conservation and a good friend," said Dr. Alan Wentz, DU's senior group manager for conservation, marketing and communication. "His untimely passing leaves a void that we will feel for year. Sam and DU have worked together for many years to improve habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Sam's energy and vitality, combined with his leadership skills, produced results for wildlife, and he set the pace for many of us. We will miss him greatly."

Harvey Nelson, one of the nation's most respected wetland and waterfowl manager and the father of the current system for setting migratory bird hunting regulations, died Feb. 21 of heart failure. He was 85.

"Harvey's professional career was impressive. I think it is worth pointing out his passion for waterfowl kept him active to the end," said Ryan Heiniger, DU's director of conservation programs for Minnesota and Iowa. "The conservation community was very fortunate to have Harvey's continued expertise and assistance."




New national park regulations improve hunter access

Hunters now will have a better understanding of firearms regulations in national parks thanks to new guidelines that will mirror state gun laws. Prior to the new regulations, hunters faced confusion and potentially violating the law by crossing national park land to access state and federal hunting land.

The new rules, being implemented in accordance with a law signed by President Obama in 2009, make the rules that govern the parks the same as the state in which the park is located.

"Prior to these revisions, the ability of waterfowlers to legally access these areas was in question due to uncertainties surrounding whether they could transport their firearms across park boundaries," said Barton James, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited. "Ducks Unlimited is pleased that the National Park Service is clarifying their position about carrying firearms in national parks."




More threats to waterfowl habitat

Recent issues of the Conservation Issues Briefing highlighted threats to wetlands and waterfowl habitat in Colorado and Tennessee due to a lack of Clean Water Act protections. Now DU and other partners have released two additional reports showing the threats to wetlands in Montana and South Carolina – two states with rich waterfowling traditions.

The guidance resulting from the SWANCC and Rapanos Supreme Court cases specifically excludes prairie potholes from Clean Water Act protection—a particular concern in Montana, part of the Prairie Pothole Region, where millions of ducks breed each year.

"The Prairie Pothole Region—called America's duck factory because of the number of ducks that breed there—includes much of eastern Montana," said Dr. Scott Yaich, director of conservation operations at Ducks Unlimited's national headquarters in Memphis. "Ensuring that these wetlands have Clean Water Act protection is vital to the future of waterfowling."




Living Lakes Initiative gets multi-million-dollar boost

Iowa's prairie potholes are getting a $2 million investment from Ducks Unlimited and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through the Living Lakes Initiative. This increased financial commitment expands their existing Living Lakes partnership to strategically target habitat conservation work on priority shallow lakes and wetlands located throughout Iowa's Prairie Pothole Region.

"We're pleased to have the Iowa DNR partner with us to expand our existing cooperative agreement by another $2 million over the next three years," said Eric Lindstrom, DU regional biologist. "Since the mid-1980s, the Iowa DNR has been a tremendous partner and ardent supporter of waterfowl and wetlands conservation work in Iowa, as well as portions of prairie Canada."




Ducks Unlimited honors Minnesota conservation partners

Three awards were handed out by Ducks Unlimited at the annual Minnesota state convention, this year held in Brainerd, Minn., to two groups and an individual that made significant contributions to conservation over the past year.

The Partner of the Year Award was presented to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"This award recognizes the tremendous commitment the DNR has made and is continuing to make to address the state's wetland and waterfowl issues," said Ryan Heiniger, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation for Minnesota and Iowa. "For example, five shallow lakes were recently designated by Commissioner Holsten, including Anka, Jennie, Curtis, Round and Smith. This represents a dramatic increase and is a reflection of the DNR's commitment to accelerating shallow-lake enhancement and management in Minnesota."

Left to right: Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union president; Ryan Heiniger, DU director of conservation programs; Kevin Lines, BWSR conservation easement section manager; Dave Schad, MN DNR director fish and wildlife division

The Professional of the Year Award was presented to Kevin Lines, who works as the conservation easement section manager for the Board of Water and Soil Resources. In this role, he has the responsibility to restore, manage and enforce more than 5,000 easements totaling 193,000 acres.

The Public Policy Champion of the Year Award was presented to the Minnesota Farmers Union and their president Doug Peterson to recognize their support and collaboration on several key legislative initiatives. As an ongoing priority, DU has been working hard to get changes made to the Farm Bill that would remove subsidies for the conversion of native prairie through the Sodsaver program. They also were a critical partner when DU brokered a deal on legislation to restore Clean Water Act protections to vulnerable wetlands.

"Ducks Unlimited very much appreciates the forward thinking of Doug, his board and staff to help identify areas of overlap, and their willingness to bring solutions-oriented thinking to the discussion," said Heiniger.

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