Ducks Unlimited Receives Highest Honor from USDA-NRCS
Ducks Unlimited has been awarded the Natural Resources Conservation Service's highest conservation
honor for its exceptional work with the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative. The initiative was created after last year's oil spill
as a means to provide alternative habitat and foraging areas for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife.
The award serves as a way for NRCS to honor organizations or individuals whose partnership efforts significantly contribute to America's enduring legacy of conservation.
NRCS Chief Dave White presented the award to DU First Vice President John Newman during the organization’s annual Capitol Hill dinner, a fundraising event widely attended by members of Congress, congressional staffs and local DU supporters.
"Ducks Unlimited has dedicated countless hours and hard work to ensure our nation's wetlands and waterfowl habitats
are protected," White said. "Their involvement with conservation efforts, such as the MBHI, have not only helped waterfowl and other wildlife thrive, but also ensure our nation's lands and natural resources will be able to be enjoyed by future generations."
The Legacy of Conservation Award medal includes the image of Hugh Hammond Bennett, considered the father of conservation for leading the soil conservation movement in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Bennett urged the country to address soil erosion. He was the catalyst for the creation of the Soil Conservation Service and served as its first chief. SCS became NRCS in 1994.
"Ducks Unlimited is honored to receive this award and we appreciate the opportunity to work with the NRCS," Newman said. "Ducks Unlimited has been privileged to work with the NRCS on the MBHI and looks forward to expanding this partnership in the years to come."
DU Leaders Visit Capitol Hill, Discuss Waterfowl Initiatives with Nation's Top Policymakers
Ducks Unlimited leaders recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the critical role wetlands conservation programs play across the nation. The group, which included several DU volunteer leaders as well as members of the DU Conservation Programs Committee, met with congressional and federal agency representatives.
"Hunters and anglers generate almost $80 billion in the U.S. economy each year. In a time when the federal government is forced to scale back its budget, it is essential that elected officials understand the positive economic impact conservation programs provide for our nation," Scott Sutherland, director of the Governmental Affairs Office for DU, said. "These meetings provide a great way for DU to educate Congress and other national leaders on how important waterfowl-related issues are to their constituents."
The Ducks Unlimited Governmental Affairs Office, which organized the fly-in, scheduled DU volunteers for more than 30 appointments with policymakers. During these meetings, DU volunteers were able showcase how waterfowl-related initiatives, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act
, positively impact the economies of local communities across the nation.
While the fly-in primarily focused on congressional visits, several key DU volunteers also met with top ranking federal agency officials, including the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. During a private meeting with Secretary Salazar, the group discussed the importance of saving America's rapidly disappearing native prairies through the implementation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposed Dakota Grassland Conservation Area. The project is part of a large-scale effort to conserve populations of migratory birds by protecting endangered grasslands in America's Prairie Pothole Region
Dakota Grassland Conservation Area would build a new national model by working with private landowners to develop conservation easement agreements that would protect working agricultural landscapes while benefiting wildlife. Ducks Unlimited has pledged to donate $50 million during 10 years for easements under the Dakota Grassland initiative.
The DU volunteers and staffers who met with Secretary Salazar included:
- John W. Childs, president of Wetlands America Trust
- John Tomke, former president of Ducks Unlimited
- George Dunklin, member of DU board of directors
- Bill D'Alonzo, member of the Wetlands America Trust board of directors
- Scott Sutherland, director of the DU Governmental Affairs Office
DU explains importance of Clean Water Act draft guidance during media briefing
The administration's recent release of the Clean Water Act
draft guidance is an important step toward restoring CWA protections to wetlands, like the prairie potholes, and other waters important to waterfowl. In an effort to inform the public about these draft guidelines, Ducks Unlimited participated in a special media briefing on May 4 to discuss the impact of this development on our nation's waterfowl habitats.
Representing DU during the briefing was Dr. Scott Yaich, who serves as the director of conservation operations. Yaich emphasized that the CWA guidance is a significant step towards restoring some of the protections necessary to sustain our nation's wetlands and the foundation of our waterfowl breeding habitats, saying that "the guidance offers an opportunity to provide more adequate protection for our nation's wetlands by providing greater clarity and more certainty about what types of waters are protected under the CWA." Yaich continued, "When we protect wetlands, we are also protecting lands important to waterfowl."
Organizations joining DU on the call included the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited.