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Policy News 2.29


Top stories for July 20, 2010
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Senate Appropriations Committee cuts funds for farm bill conservation easement programs

Two weeks after a House subcommittee rejected caps on farm bill conservation easement programs that were included in the president's fiscal year 2011 budget request, the ruling from a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting last Thursday dealt a blow to Farm Bill 2012 easement funding.

The Senate cut $500 million from the budget, which fortunately is only half as serious as the $1 billion cutback laid out in the president's budget. However, these cuts fall disproportionately on easement programs that play an integral role in the farm bill and the priorities of DU:

  • The Farm and Ranchland Protection Program would be capped at $160 million. The funding would increase by $10 million from last year, but that is less than the $175 million Farm Bill level allowed by the House.
  • The funding cap for the Grasslands Reserve Program would be reduced by approximately $14 million. While this is a less-extensive cut than the $22 million cut in the president's budget, there was no cut in the House.
  • The funding cap for the Wetlands Reserve Program would be cut by approximately $75 million. Again, this cut is less than the $111 million cut in the president's plan, but the House allowed full funding.

Grasslands with and without Farm Bill protections
With and without farm bill protections A side-by-side comparison of the state of grasslands
in the Prairie Pothole Region with and without conservation easement program funding
under the 2012 Farm Bill.

Dan Wrinn, director of public policy at DU's Governmental Affairs Office, said the Senate cuts show how tough funding will be in the upcoming years. "Though we are disappointed in the Senate Appropriation Committee's decision to cut funding, we will continue to work hard for more conservation program funding in the 2012 Farm Bill," said Wrinn. "Keeping funding for conservation programs will require the DU community to reach out to senators and representatives as appropriators seek a compromise."

House committee approves bill to increase funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund

The U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee has approved legislation (H.R. 3534) that, if enacted, would provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF funds are used to acquire important conservation lands for national wildlife refuges, national parks and forests. In the prairies, these funds are an essential tool for acquiring permanent easements on waterfowl breeding habitat. Half of the LWCF funding also goes toward state and local parks and recreation areas.

Rep. Nick Rahall (WV)
Rep. Nick Rahall (WV)

The proposal as worded will not compete with other funding for the Department of Interior programs. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Nick Rahall (WV). Rep. Rahall's inclusion of full funding for LWCF into H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act (CLEAR), came with support from a coalition of hunting, fishing, and other conservation organizations, including Ducks Unlimited. If this provision becomes law, it will be a significant victory for the waterfowl resource. "Congress is standing up for conserving important areas of the breeding grounds with a portion - the LWCF funding proposal - of H.R. 3534," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "We are glad for the support shown by the House Natural Resources Committee and look forward to working to support this particular funding going forward. The proposal will next go to the House floor for further consideration."

Minnesota senator uses Senate floor to encourage protection of Gulf Coast migratory bird habitat

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN)

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN) addressed the Senate last week regarding the state of North America's migratory birds in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill. In her remarks from the floor of the Senate, Sen. Klobuchar encouraged the administration to execute a coordinated effort to protect the habitat of the nation's migratory bird populations as they move south toward the Gulf Coast this winter.

Last month, Sen. Klobuchar told The Minnesota Star-Tribune she felt too little attention is going toward migratory birds amidst the oil spill. "What I've taken from discussions I've had recently in Washington is that there has not been enough focus on the potential effects of the oil spill on migratory birds," Klobuchar said. "The focus so far has been on fishing in the Gulf and the economics of the way of life along the Gulf."

Sen. Klobuchar's remarks follow a letter that she, along with Sens. Kent Conrad (ND), George Voinovich (OH), Blanche Lincoln (AR), James Inhofe (OK), Ben Nelson (NE), Russell Feingold (WI) and Tim Johnson (SD), sent to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The letter urged the administration to ensure all agencies and organizations involved with the Gulf Coast oil spill cleanup are working to protect America's migratory bird habitat.

After highlighting the substantial impact that waterfowl hunting, birding and related activities have on the nation's economy, the senators encouraged the administration to make sure that both government and nonprofit resources are coordinated and to establish a definitive plan to assess the Gulf Coast cleanup that is necessary for the protection of the nation's migratory birds.

The letter from the senators stated, "As we've seen, oil-covered habitats pose a serious threat to the birds that are already in the Gulf. With millions of additional birds headed to the area soon, the problem will become more acute and our wildlife – and hunting and birding communities – could face severe harm if we do not treat this issue with a great sense of urgency."

DU to deliver upgrade to Sacramento wildlife refuge thanks to NAWCA grant

Earlier this month, DU and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated construction of the Pool 7A, Pool 7 and Pool 10 Cell 2 Wetland Enhancement Project at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. The project, which is being funded primarily by a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant secured by DU, will enhance 950 acres of wetland habitat within the Sacramento Valley, the single-most important wintering area for waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway, according to Virginia Getz, manager of conservation programs at DU's Western Regional Office in Sacramento, Calif.

"DU has been involved with this project in California since 2006 and we are very excited to finally be initiating construction," said Getz. "This project is an excellent example of how DU brings engineering and biology together to solve a complex infrastructure problem. At the same time, it will improve habitat conditions for many special-status species and numerous waterfowl, shorebirds and other waterbirds; reduce management time required by refuge staff; and improve public opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation."

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
Protected by NAWCA Wildlife enjoy lush habitat in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge thanks to a NAWCA grant secured by Ducks Unlimited.

From 2006 to 2008, DU, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and USFWS partnered to prepare a plan that identified the work needed to increase the efficiency of water conveyance and improve habitat conditions in Pool 7A Cells 1-4, Pool 7 and Pool 10 Cell 2 and to protect Dam 2 from flood damage. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation provided DU with funding for this preliminary work, and the current project will implement the work that was identified in that plan. Planned work includes improving/re-grading existing levees, constructing new levees, improving the flowline of ditches, constructing new inter-connected swales and potholes, re-contouring the land, constructing a water distribution basin and spillways and removing degraded water control structures and installing new ones.


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