Habitat conservation and public policy
Public policy work by DU and other conservation organizations is critical to the future of waterfowl conservation. Because of past successes in this area, a broad-based culture of protecting wetlands and other wildlife habitat has developed in North America. This has resulted in huge gains for wildlife, especially in the area of beneficial agricultural and wildlife policies that benefit enormous acreages of landscape for waterfowl and other wildlife. Historically, the amount of wetland loss has been much greater than we see today. Between 1950 and 1970, the annual rate of net loss of wetlands in the U.S. was 458,000 acres, which dropped to 290,000 acres per year through the 1970s and 1980s. Much of the reduction in losses was due to an increasing public awareness of wetland values that led to public policy changes to protect wetlands.
DU and its multitude of private and public partners are successful today because waterfowl hunters and other conservationists tell their elected representatives that waterfowl habitat is important and demonstrate their commitment by funding habitat conservation themselves. Other citizens from across a wide spectrum of society support waterfowl conservation because of the many additional environmental benefits provided by waterfowl habitat.
The most significant contribution of the broad coalition that supports waterfowl habitat conservation comes from their influence on public policy. Politicians react to the needs of their constituents, and waterfowl advocates have worked hard to get solid conservation provisions such as CRP and the Wetland Reserve Program into the Farm Bill, and to support passage of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, to name just two major acts of Congress. Because DU and its partners have invested their money where their mouths are, they are extremely effective spokespersons that support beneficial policies for waterfowl.
Thus, there is great strength in our collective diversity and numbers, but waterfowl conservation will fail without all of us working in the same direction.
This article is part one in a four-part series, "Prairies Under Siege." Read part two here.