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Policy News 2.27


Top stories for July 6, 2010
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DU staff member testifies before congressional committee on Farm Bill successes

Last week, Dr. Scott Manley, director of conservation programs in Ducks Unlimited's Southern Region, testified before the Conservation Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee on the conservation successes of the 2008 Farm Bill. Dr. Manley leads the delivery of DU's conservation programs in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico.

Dr. Scott Manley testifies on 2008 Farm Bill successesIn his testimony, Dr. Manley discussed DU's partnership with the agricultural community and several programs that support restoration and other forms of land conservation, including the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Dr. Manley also mentioned the importance of landscape initiatives. These initiatives provide better bang for the conservation buck, because thanks to cohesive planning of these efforts, environmental benefits can "compound" by achieving a critical mass of conservation in a key area. Landscape initiatives singled out in the testimony included the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program and the Mississippi River Basin Initiative.

Dr. Manley commented that local governance of national programs can be beneficial to outcomes, but he also had suggestions for improvements. He testified that there is an imbalance between funding for conservation assistance to farmers and ranchers and the technical assistance required to help those producers ensure that projects conducted under conservation programs are more successful. He also noted that partnerships are strong indicators of success. The majority of success has been realized when partnerships between landowners, the federal government, state agencies and/or nonprofits were involved.

Finally, Dr. Manley counseled that flexibility can be useful to allow success to flourish in certain parts of the nation where demand for conservation is high. The goal of these programs is conservation success. Manley said he hopes Congress and the delivery agencies can keep that on top of their minds as they devise and deliver farm bill conservation programs.

NOAA administrator visits Ducks Unlimited restoration project in California

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under-secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA administrator visits DU project site Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under-secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the NOAA, visits the Napa Plant Site Restoration Project in the California Bay Area. Photo courtesy NOAA.gov.

Officials from Ducks Unlimited's Western Regional Office met with Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under-secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—the nation's top science agency for climate, oceans and the atmosphere—after she asked to visit DU's most recent restoration project in California.

Dr. Lubchenco's visit comes on the heels of the first wave of work at DU's Napa Plant Site Restoration Project (NPSRP), which will restore approximately 1,400 acres of tidal wetlands that will benefit a variety of fish and wildlife species and provide sustainable economic opportunities to local and regional communities of the San Pablo Bay area. Ducks Unlimited partnered with NOAA's Office of Habitat Conservation on the project.

Located within American Canyon, Calif., a city just north of San Francisco, the NPSRP is part of one of the largest restoration projects in U.S. history, the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Restoration Project. Over the last six years, DU and its partners have successfully restored more than 6,000 acres of an 11,000-acre expanse of former salt evaporation ponds lying within the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area. This area is owned by the California Department of Fish and Game, which manages the NPSRP.

"We are extremely pleased that Dr. Lubchenco wanted to visit a project that symbolizes the wonderful restoration work that has resulted from DU's partnership with NOAA's Office of Habitat Conservation," said Chris Unkel, director of public policy at the WRO. "We have collaborated on a number of projects in the Bay area and hope to continue this relationship moving forward. This visit served as an excellent opportunity for her to see firsthand the benefits that these projects can have for both wildlife and people."

New DU mitigation program banking on need for restored wetlands

Tim McNaboe, an engineer at DU's Great Plains Regional Office, is establishing mitigation banks of restored wetlands that can be used to offset the impacts of wetlands lost due to construction or other activities.

Prairie wetland
Photo by Jim Ringelman

"We're looking for landowners who have legally drained wetlands DU can restore," McNaboe said. "Mitigation rules require that DU restore and secure wetlands and a small buffer area through purchase or easement."

Federal law requires that all construction projects using federal dollars have "no net loss" of wetland acres and function. Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sees that action is taken to offset unavoidable adverse impacts to wetlands, streams and other aquatic resources.

"Public agencies, like state departments of transportation, and private developers sometimes end up destroying wetlands during the construction process and need to mitigate for that loss by restoring or creating wetlands," McNaboe said. "DU's wetland mitigation bank will help them replace that habitat to meet federal guidelines."

McNaboe will first focus on landowners in Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa, but he will eventually work in all of the states covered by the Great Plains Regional Office, which also include Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

"We're in the early stages of setting up banks right now," he said. "Our preference is to restore drained wetlands because they already have the natural hydrology and soils for wetland development. The mitigation project site would have to get preliminary approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before we could move forward."

DU staff member, volunteers participate in Maryland AGO listening session

After DU staff, volunteers and members had a successful experience at the America's Great Outdoors listening sessions in Montana, Kurt Dyroff, manager of conservation programs at DU's Annapolis Office, along with Scott Jasion, Maryland DU state chairman, and Stephen Holt, a member of the Annapolis DU committee, followed suit by participating in the AGO session held in Annapolis on June 25.

DU Manager of Conservation Programs Kurt Dyroff
Maryland AGO listening session DU Manager of Conservation Programs Kurt Dyroff participated in an America's Great Outdoors listening session in Annapolis on June 25.

More than 400 people attended the session, representing federal and state agencies, land trusts, other nongovernmental agencies and local citizens. Also in attendance were Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Under-secretary for Natural Resources and Environment for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Harris Sherman, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin and Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes.

The goal of the session was to bring together ranchers, farmers, forest landowners, sportsmen and women, state and local government leaders, tribal leaders, public lands experts, conservationists, youth leaders, business representatives and others in an effort to give administration officials a closer look at some of the smart, creative ways Chesapeake Bay communities are conserving outdoor spaces and reconnecting Americans to the outdoors.

After a general introductory session led by Secretary Salazar, Dyroff, Jaison and Holt each attended smaller sessions focusing on topics such as public land conservation, citizen stewardship and recreation/public access. They used this opportunity to tie the discussions into DU's mission, acknowledging the importance of Farm Bill programs to DU's conservation work across the country, including in the Prairie Pothole Region and the Chesapeake Bay. They also stressed the need for more funding for voluntary on-the-ground habitat conservation programs and the need for increased collaboration among the partners in the Chesapeake Bay region. Each also highlighted the economic importance of outdoor recreation across the country and its direct link to habitat restoration and protection.

"The AGO session was a great opportunity for DU, as it gave us a forum to promote our conservation priorities and our work in front of administration officials and other agencies who can help make our goals a reality," said Dyroff. "I also felt it was vital to stress that DU and its partners are poised to help the government meet the objectives of their conservation programs and the AGO initiative."


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