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Policy News: Vol. 3, Issue 3

Top stories for Jan. 19, 2011
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DU conservation staff discuss common ground issues with Farm Bureau

MN Farm Bureau

Members of DU’s GPRO staff recently met with public policy staff from the Minnesota Farm Bureau at the Farm Bureau office in St. Paul to discuss the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. (member photo courtesy Donald Kalahar)

Staff from Ducks Unlimited's Great Plains Regional Office recently met with public policy staff from the Minnesota Farm Bureau at the Farm Bureau office in St. Paul to discuss the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill and other issues of common interest.

"It's important that DU work with partners in agriculture to help craft farm policy that benefits waterfowl and is compatible with the needs of those in the ranching and farming community who value and conserve the waterfowl resource," said Scott McLeod, governmental affairs representative for DU's Great Plains Regional Office. "Mutually beneficial farm policy can only happen when conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited and agricultural groups are engaged in regular dialogue. It doesn't mean we will agree on every issue, but the friendships that are developed create productive conversations and a respect for one another's opinion and position on issues. Often, we find that we have much in common and that there are issues we can work together on to be more effective."

The farm bill provides tremendous opportunity to conserve wetland and grassland habitats at a landscape-level scale and has been one of DU's highest policy priorities since 1985. DU is in the early stages of preparing for the 2012 Farm Bill, and a key step throughout the process is engaging in farm bill discussions with conservation groups, farm groups, federal and state agencies and political leaders.


Conservation hero makes surprise visit to GLARO office, discusses issues affecting Great Lakes region

GLARO
Michigan congressman John Dingell, middle, visits with GLARO Regional Biologist Casey Bartkus, left, and GLARO Director of Public Policy Gildo Tori, right, to discuss issues affecting the Great Lakes.

Congressman John Dingell of Michigan's 15th district, recently dropped by for a "listening stop" visit at the Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office of Ducks Unlimited in Ann Arbor. Dingell, Congress's longest-serving representative, met informally with Gildo Tori, DU director of public policy for GLARO, and Casey Bartkus, regional biologist at GLARO, to discuss a myriad of issues that impact the Great Lakes.

GLARO staff thanked Rep. Dingell for his longtime support and recognized his achievements to promote the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. DU recently completed a habitat conservation project in the Refuge by restoring hydrology to land that was recently in agricultural crops. The congressman introduced legislation to create the first international refuge in 2001, and the refuge has grown from 300 to nearly 5,000 acres.

Rep. Dingell has also been a steady supporter of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and helps administer the program as the longest serving member in history on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. He was an architect of the Clean Water Act in 1972, an act that still holds great importance today. Dingell also praised DU for its work on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and for the projects on DU's drawing boards.

"Congressman John Dingell has always been a supporter of wetland restoration and waterfowl hunting. His leadership on NAWCA, on Great Lakes restoration and a host of other pro-waterfowl and pro-sportsman issues has meant more wetlands for fish and wildlife, and more places for people to hunt, fish and birdwatch," said Tori.

Rep. Dingell took a moment to pose for photos with GLARO staffers before he resumed his busy schedule. He thanked DU for its focus on wetland and waterfowl conservation and pledged his continued support. Congressman Dingell's contributions and genuine passion for natural resources are a great gift to the people of the Great Lakes and furthers the mission of Ducks Unlimited. Dingell's work has been recognized in proclamations by the DU board of directors, and he was one of the first winners of DU's Wetlands Conservation Achievement Award.


Sen. Stabenow, DU present at Farm Bill Forum

Debbie Stabenow
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) announced at the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s annual conference she will begin hearings on the new farm bill in the next few months. (photo from washingtonpost.com)
As farmers, agri-business, conservationists and nutritionists anticipate the results of the 2012 Farm Bill, the issue was a main topic of discussion at the Michigan Agri-Business Association's annual conference, held Jan. 10-13 in Lansing. The event, typically attended by 900 to 1,000 people from across the Midwest, includes anyone associated with production agriculture, farm economy, conservation and farm agencies. 

At the meeting, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI), the new chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced she will begin hearings on the new farm bill in the next few months. Michigan, which has the second most diverse farm economy of any state behind California, also has a big concern for a clean and healthy Great Lakes environment. Sen. Stabenow called Michigan residents especially "great stewards of the land" because of their proximity to the Great Lakes, and added "It is easier for us to come together and find common-sense solutions that protect the environment while also keeping our industries successful."

During the forum, Gildo Tori, DU director of public policy and a member of DU's farm bill team, presented a talk on farm bill conservation programs and their contributions to wildlife, soil and water, as well as some of the challenges facing conservation in the 2012 Farm Bill. Tori mentioned the current economic climate may hinder or reduce current conservation programs, and that conservationists, farmers/producers and the agricultural industry should look for ways to maximize conservation while promoting sustainable agricultural production. 

DU's Conservation Programs Committee meets to discuss 2012 Farm Bill, Clean Water and other policy issues

Conservation Programs Committee

DU’s Conservation Programs Committee recently met to discuss DU’s efforts on several issues, including the 2012 Farm Bill and DU’s renewed efforts to get Clean Water Act protections restored to geographically isolated wetlands.

Ducks Unlimited's Conservation Programs Committee, a volunteer group that provides advice to the DU board of directors in achieving its conservation mission, met this weekend near Sacramento, Calif. The meeting was hosted by Paul and Sandy Bonderson at their Bird Haven Ranch. Bonderson is DU's Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs.

At the meeting, the CPC considered and supported DU's efforts on several issues, including the 2012 Farm Bill and DU's renewed efforts to get Clean Water Act protections restored to geographically isolated wetlands. Both issues rank high among DU priorities. Farm bill conservation programs are often utilized by DU to achieve a variety of habitat objectives. The group also approved several important land projects and initiatives.

"This CPC meeting was very productive," said Scott Sutherland, director of DU's Governmental Affairs Office. "The committee had good discussions to advance proposed plans for DU's work on the 2012 Farm Bill. One of the main goals those discussions outlined was ensuring the farm bill's conservation programs receive sufficient funding."

There was also a good discussion of DU's work on restoring protections for geographically isolated wetlands lost after Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.    

Committee members are routinely briefed on DU's public policy agenda and the status of that work. One portion of that presentation at this meeting included a forecast of what the November 2010 election results might mean for the needs of waterfowl (and waterfowlers).

The Committee honored the leadership of Dr. Alan Wentz, recently retired Chief Conservation Officer for DU, for his leadership of DU's conservation staff and his work as the lead staff liaison to the Committee. During his tenure as the senior staff leader for DU's "conservation product," the organization conserved more than 3.3 million acres of land in the United States.
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