Will Lame Duck Congress act on conservation priorities?
Congress returns next week from its election break to decide the fate of a slate of bills that will "die" if not acted upon before it adjourns for the year. When Congress left for an election recess on Sept. 30, several pieces of legislation of interest to waterfowl enthusiasts were left hanging in the balance.
Among the proposals that have seen substantial progress but remain unfinished are tax provisions that renew enhanced deductibility to those donating lands for conservation benefits, and passage of legislation that would congressionally authorize the joint venture process originated under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Congress also needs to renew the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, which provides waterfowl habitat benefits. It is unclear whether Congress will be able to muster votes for any substantive legislation given that leadership of all committees in the House of Representatives will change hands when the new Congress is sworn in. Anticipating this change, those about to assume control may not want to move forward under "lame duck" leadership.
Also pending next week are the appropriations bills to fund most government programs, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System and all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service functions. Annual funding for federal programs expires on Sept. 30 each year. Since that time, Congress has provided only short-term funding for the government, and that funding expires on Dec. 3. Speculation is that Congress may pass another temporary funding bill that would continue funding until the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2011.
Legislation that would make annual allocation for the Land and Water Conservation Fund more predictable is awaiting Senate floor action. The LWCF is used for acquiring lands in national refuges, parks, forests and waterfowl production areas. One provision added with DU support would direct the government to use some LWCF monies to acquire improved access to federal lands for recreation purposes including hunting and fishing. DU supports the LWCF funding measure and has joined with other sportsmen conservation organizations to express that support to leaders in both parties. It is unclear whether there are 60 votes that would be needed to overcome opposition from a minority that opposes the idea.
During the recess, DU has let Congress know of its support for many of these bills that affect the waterfowl resource and citizens that support their conservation.
DU supports waterfowling heritage on national historic trail in Chesapeake Bay area
The Occoquan Water Trail on the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail runs through critical wildlife habitat in northern Virginia. (Photo: smithtrail.net)
Ducks Unlimited recently led an effort to provide comments to the National Park Service in response to the 2010 Draft Comprehensive Management Plan for the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. DU was joined by 32 national sportsmen conservation organizations in urging the trail's planners to ensure and encourage opportunities for participation in the historic Chesapeake Bay cultural activities of hunting, fishing and trapping.
"The importance of waterfowl and waterfowl hunting in the Chesapeake Bay area cannot be overlooked," said Kurt Dyroff, director of conservation programs at Ducks Unlimited's Annapolis Office. "The pursuit of waterfowl and other game was essential to the survival of early American explorers and inhabitants, including Capt. John Smith. Today, the Chesapeake Bay area supports nearly 35 percent of all waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway, and waterfowl hunting is still a fixture in many households, just as it was more than 400 years ago."
The Chesapeake Bay has been an abundant source of fish and fowl since before settlement. Today, thousands of families from the region participate in the same outdoor activities that have taken place there for hundreds of years. Sportsmen and women pump significant dollars into the local economy every year. Ensuring that hunting, fishing and trapping are part of the trail's recreation plan will guarantee future generations access to the same natural treasures we enjoy today and our ancestors enjoyed in the region's past.
Ducks Unlimited looks forward to working with the NPS in the development of a final management plan for the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Full text of the letter to the NPS is available here.
Conservation policy interns needed
Ducks Unlimited's Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., is seeking two conservation policy interns to begin work in early January 2011. Our interns gain valuable Capitol Hill and nonprofit experience by supporting efforts to educate members of Congress and their staffs on the positive effects of conservation legislation and concepts.
Intern candidates should be extremely motivated workers, possess excellent verbal and written communication skills, demonstrate above-average computer skills and be able to work independently with minimal supervision. Knowledge of wildlife conservation, wetlands, congressional process and/or agriculture policy and practices is a plus. Work emphasis will be on communications and the legislative process. Our interns are responsible for assisting professional staff in promoting public policy initiatives affecting wetlands, waterfowl and agricultural conservation.
Please send a cover letter and résumé to Whitney Tawney at email@example.com.