DU Mobile Apps
Banding Together for Waterfowl

NAWCA turns 25

Now a quarter century old, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act is more important than ever to waterfowl and hunters
  • photo by Scott Stephens, DU Canada
Image of
Where Does the Money Come From? 
NAWCA's federal funding comes from a variety of sources, and one of the most important is federal appropriations (i.e., your tax dollars). Other sources of funding, which together typically have generated an amount of money roughly equal to appropriations, include the interest on dedicated taxes that sportsmen pay through the purchase of firearms, ammunition, and fishing tackle; and federal fuel excise taxes on small gasoline engines such as boat motors.  

As its name implies, NAWCA supports projects across North America, requiring that some funding is provided for projects outside the United States. Throughout NAWCA's history, the council has directed about 45 percent of eligible funding to projects in Canada, 5 percent to Mexico, and the remainder to projects in the United States. Another important catalyst for NAWCA partnerships is the act's requirement that federal funding used in Canada and Mexico be matched with some nonfederal funding from U.S. sources. These two stipulations create a shared obligation for U.S.-based partners to generate nonfederal funding for Canadian and Mexican projects to balance conservation efforts in the United States. Congress thereby implicitly recognized the importance of taking care of waterfowl and other wetland-associated migratory birds throughout their continental range. DU and its state conservation agency partners have been and continue to be the principal providers of U.S.-based funding for NAWCA projects outside the United States.    
Celebrating NAWCA's Success
Twenty-five years after the legislation became law, NAWCA's partnership- and incentive-based approach has succeeded beyond anyone's dreams. Through late 2013, $1.24 billion in federal NAWCA funding has flowed to wetland projects across North America. Notably, although the act requires only a 1:1 match, its federal funding has leveraged over $3.4 billion in contributions from partners. Together, NAWCA and partner funds have contributed to the conservation of 26.9 million acres of wetlands and associated habitats across this continent, an area larger than the state of Tennessee. More than 2,300 wetland conservation projects, involving over 5,000 separate partners, provide clear evidence of the broad-based interest in and support for the program. More important, this level of continuing success stands as a clear indication of the benefits resulting directly from the act's foundation in and commitment to the importance of private-state-federal-international partnerships dedicated to wetlands conservation. 

This phenomenal success, and the importance of NAWCA to wetlands conservation, is apparent today. More than 1,500 projects have been completed in the United States, positively impacting almost 8 million acres throughout all 50 states. In Canada, 145 partners have collaboratively delivered 512 projects in 13 provinces and territories, contributing to the conservation of more than 16 million acres, largely in the key waterfowl production areas of the Prairie Pothole Region and Western Boreal Forest. The Mexican NAWCA program has completed 268 projects in 31 states, affecting 3.25 million acres. And thanks to the generosity of all its supporters and members, Ducks Unlimited has been a significant NAWCA partner across North America.   

NAWCA, Waterfowl, and the Future
What has all this meant to waterfowl populations? Certainly, as many waterfowl hunters know, populations of most species are in dramatically better shape now than when the act was signed in 1989. There can be no doubt that extensive and diverse NAWCA-delivered habitat, and the underlying partnerships that put those acres on the ground, have significantly benefited waterfowl conservation in many ways. However, an unusually long period of wet weather and good habitat conditions for waterfowl production on the breeding grounds has played the most significant role in the resurgence of waterfowl populations.

Nevertheless, NAWCA projects are a key part of the vast, complex, and interconnected "safety net" that sustains continental waterfowl populations. As we celebrate the successes and progress made during NAWCA's first 25 years, we cannot afford to rest. We must maintain the partnerships that keep the NAWCA program vital and successful—and whether you know it or not, every DU member is an important partner in that effort. As long as we all work together to grow the strength and breadth of these partnerships, we can look forward to many more productive years of wetlands conservation through NAWCA. 

Dr. Scott Yaich is national director of conservation planning and policy at DU headquarters in Memphis.

NAWCA NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT The longevity, success, and broad bipartisan congressional support that NAWCA has achieved during its first 25 years is a remarkable legislative achievement. But this didn't happen by accident. NAWCA's continued success will require ongoing stewardship to maintain its support and effectiveness. Congress must reauthorize NAWCA every five years, and sets funding levels for the act every year. With so many other issues competing for congressional attention and federal funding, we must remind our elected officials regularly how important NAWCA is to us and all the good things this legislation is doing for conservation, recreation, and the economy. DU's website has a page (ducks.org/nawca) dedicated to keeping its supporters informed about the status and needs of NAWCA. This page also provides links to make it easy for you to contact your legislators. Whether you call, email, or visit your senators and representatives when they are back home, your advocacy is important and will translate into more congressional support for NAWCA, wetlands on the landscape, and ducks in the skies.


Free DU Decal

Receive a free DU decal when you signup for our free monthly newsletter.