DU celebrates hunting, fishing heritage with passage of amendments in three states
Voters in Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina overwhelmingly approved amendments yesterday that will protect hunting and fishing as constitutional rights.
In Tennessee, 90 percent of voters supported the amendment, while similar measures received 89 and 82 percent of the vote in South Carolina and Arkansas, respectively. Voters in Arizona, the only other state with a similar amendment on the ballot, rejected the change.
Photo: Kyle Loeffler
"We are glad to see the voters of Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina voted in favor of these amendments, as they protect a very important piece of our nation's heritage," DU CEO Dale Hall said. "Ducks Unlimited supported the passage of these amendments, and we hope that more states will adopt similar changes in the future."
The 10 other states that have already adopted the amendment to protect hunting and fishing are Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Vote sends strong message that conservation is top priority in Iowa
Iowans overwhelmingly voted "Yes" to create a dedicated and constitutionally protected Natural Resources Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund yesterday, with more than 662,000 voters (about 62 percent) approving the amendment to the state's constitution. The trust fund will help improve the state's water quality, protect agricultural soils, enhance critical fish and wildlife habitat and provide additional public recreation areas.
Ducks Unlimited supported the amendment and DU volunteers, along with a broad coalition of more than 130 groups, worked to ensure its passage. "Iowans showed by an almost two-to-one ratio that outdoor recreational opportunities and the continued enhancement of our natural resources are indeed important to them," said James Roetman, DU Iowa state chairman.
Iowa has lost more than 90 percent of its original 6 million acres of wetlands. As a result, the state's water quality, wildlife populations and residents have suffered.
"With this landmark vote, Iowans have sent a strong message that the conservation and enhancement of our natural resources are a top priority for them and future generations," said Eric Lindstrom, DU regional biologist for Iowa.
The economies of Iowa's agricultural community will also benefit from the trust fund with the measure's soil conservation provisions. Studies show for every $1 invested in reducing soil erosion, Iowa gains more than $5 in economic benefits.
Similar dedicated natural resource funding measures have been created for Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas. "Efforts in these states, and now in Iowa, demonstrate what dedicated conservationists can do to insure the future of natural resources and outdoor opportunities for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren," DU CEO Dale Hall said.
The next step will be to put money in the trust fund. The constitutional amendment passed by voters will dedicate 3/8ths of 1 percent of future sales tax revenue if an increase is passed by the state legislature. The fund is expected to generate approximately $150 million each year.
DU efforts to provide waterfowl benefits on national refuges continue
Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge
DU has long been a partner in providing quality waterfowl habitat on national wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas. Last week, DU staff members who advocate for the program in Washington, D.C., joined allies to visit six national wildlife refuges located in Louisiana to gauge the effects of what public policy efforts are providing on the ground.
The trip was organized by the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, a coalition of diverse conservation organizations that works with Congress and the Administration to ensure that adequate funding is provided to the refuge system for operations and maintenance of habitat for the benefit of wildlife. DU was a founding member of the group 15 years ago.
There are 553 national wildlife refuges located in 50 states. The Refuge System is a system of public lands accessible to the public for various uses, from hunting to wildlife watching to hiking and fishing. DU's support of the Refuge System stems from its ability to provide publicly accessible waterfowl habitat across each of the four flyways. Hunting is permitted on most refuges, depending on the wildlife needs on that particular acreage. The wildlife refuges have played a key part of the support of waterfowl populations in this country. DU has supported efforts to open more federal refuges to hunting.
Challenges on the Louisiana refuges vary from lack of funding for wildlife habitat improvements and maintenance to law enforcement against poachers and trespassers. To fight these obstacles, refuge staff at the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Louisiana are working to reforest the majority of the 76,000 acres of the refuge with native bottomland hardwoods, and to manage those forests for the benefit of waterfowl, neotropical migratory birds, native black bears and other species. On Delta National Wildlife Refuge, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, refuge managers are working to manage habitat around oil production rigs scattered across the refuge.
Caroline Garrett, a member of the staff in DU's Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., said, "Having seen these areas firsthand, it will help me be a more effective advocate when I meet with congressional staff to explain the needs of the refuge system and waterfowl habitat on the refuges in particular."
Funding for the Refuge System in this next fiscal year will remain the same as last year, but more acres have been added to the system and the backlog of projects keeps increasing. Refuge staffs are committed to maintaining these public lands for the benefit of wildlife species and visitors, but lack of funding and staff to do the work are their biggest obstacles to making these lands as productive as possible for America's wildlife.
$4.48 million Louisiana coastal restoration project restores 2,500 acres of marsh habitat
Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and representative of the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, addresses the crowd at the Black Lake Terracing Project.
Ducks Unlimited and partners recently gathered at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge to celebrate the completion of a $4.48 million coastal restoration project in southwest Louisiana.
"This project represents a significant step in coastal restoration," said DU First Vice President John Newman. "Even before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill turned much of the country's attention toward the long-term plight of the Louisiana coastal marshes, Ducks Unlimited and partners were working to restore waterfowl habitat along the Gulf Coast."
The Black Lake Terracing Project restored marsh on four separate sites, including areas west of Hackberry near Black Lake and areas on the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. With the support of multiple state, federal, corporate, nonprofit and other private partners, including $2 million from the state of Louisiana, Ducks Unlimited built more than 50 miles of marsh terraces to restore 2,500 acres of vital marsh habitat.
Marsh terraces slow wind and wave action, decreasing erosion and promoting marsh growth. They provide important habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species.
"The state of Louisiana invested $2 million in this endeavor, and working with Ducks Unlimited we accomplished $4.5 million worth of work. In addition, we saw a return on that investment in less than a year. That's a true example of the power of partnerships. We can do far more together than we can alone," state Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish said.
The project, led by Ducks Unlimited, is a cooperative effort among 16 partners including the Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, North American Wetlands Conservation Council, NOAA Community Based Restoration Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Miami Corporation, Wetlands America Trust, Shell Marine, Sempra Energy Foundation, BP, Jim Bel, Curt Marcantel, Black Lake Land and Oil LLC and the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District.