Top stories for July 13, 2010
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Farm Bill 2012 planning meeting unites Ducks Unlimited staff, volunteers
Last week, DU's Governmental Affairs Office hosted more than 30 senior volunteers and DU staff from across the country to celebrate the relationship between waterfowl conservation and agriculture in preparation of the 2012 Farm Bill.
The goal of the planning meeting was to finalize a list of Farm Bill priority objectives for the coming months, but much more was covered during the meetings. Regional staff shared how the 2008 Farm Bill programs have helped to achieve their regional habitat priorities. The GAO staff updated attendees on the current political atmosphere and nexus surrounding the Farm Bill. Representatives from DU's development staff and volunteer corps spoke about grassroots tactics and current development initiatives and trends DU will need in order to fund its Farm Bill strategy. The communications staff and volunteers covered current capabilities as well as new opportunities to influence and motivate DU volunteers, outside groups and members of Congress.
Scott Sutherland, director of the GAO, said the meeting was a great example of DU staff and volunteers coming together to achieve a common goal. "I am very pleased with the process we went through and where we are at this point in our Farm Bill strategy," he said. "Our sessions were lively and people were engaged. Both staff and volunteers exchanged lots of questions, comments and ideas."
DU says Open Fields program will keep hunting traditions alive
Ducks Unlimited's support of a new federal program is starting to pay off with more opportunities for hunters. Under a recently launched U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative called Open Fields, landowners can receive a financial incentive in exchange for opening lands to the public for outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing.
Photo by Joseph Jones
"Open Fields gives landowners one more incentive to share with hunters the habitat they're conserving and encourages landowners to use best-management practices for maintaining that habitat," said Dr. Scott Stephens, director of conservation planning for Ducks Unlimited's Great Plains Region.
Plans for the legislation were originally announced in Ducks Unlimited's Great Plains Regional Office by its sponsor, U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.). Approved in the 2008 Farm Bill, Open Fields will provide $50 million for states to create or expand voluntary hunter-access programs on private lands. DU worked with partners in the wildlife community to support the measure in Congress and helped to obtain funding. Open Fields will help preserve our nation's hunting tradition by opening an estimated 4 million new acres of private land to public hunting and fishing annually.
DU delivers wetlands improvements in Western Kentucky
While waterfowl extensively use its moist soil units, flooded agricultural lands and natural wetlands, the Boatwright Wildlife Management Area in western Kentucky was still in dire need of two enhancement projects. And thanks to DU, it received them.
DU, in an effort to provide adequate water management capabilities for two units on the property, installed water control structures and additional levees to allow for seasonal water level control and maintenance. This work was funded primarily through North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants and major sponsor contributions. Collectively, 67 acres were enhanced. New underground piping connected to existing wells now allows local mangers to reliably provide habitat for wintering waterfowl. These new impoundments will be open for the 2010-2011 waterfowl hunting season.
The Boatwright project is a continuation of a long-standing partnership between DU and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, but it is the two's first collaboration on a NAWCA grant proposal. The groups worked together on the acquisition of the two units in need of restoration, which were added to Boatwright WMA in 2003 and 2004, respectively. DU and KDFWR are actively collaborating on plans for an estimated 30 wetland restoration and enhancement projects on public and private lands in western Kentucky during the next several years.
DU closes easement near Army base in New York
Doug Gorby, DU regional biologist; Linda Garrett of Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust; landowner Angie Kerry and Deanne Torrence of Fort Drum military base celebrate the closing of a third ACUB easement.
Last week, Ducks Unlimited closed its third conservation easement under the U.S. Army Compatible Use Buffer program. DU worked with the Army and the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust to purchase the development rights to a 46-acre parcel of land owned by Mike and Angie Kerry near Fort Drum military base in New York. The easement will allow the Kerrys to continue to use the land for agriculture, but will keep the land in a natural state for perpetuity.
"This is the third ACUB easement we've closed, and this parcel is contiguous with another recently closed ACUB parcel," said Doug Gorby, regional biologist for DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office. "When we start building these larger blocks of conserved lands, the benefit of each individual piece increases. This is a move in the right direction for landscape-based protection around Fort Drum."
The ACUB program is a partnership between the Army and DU to use U.S. Department of Defense funds to protect natural lands that adjoin the Fort Drum base. The Army benefits from being able to train effectively on the base without interference from encroaching development, while DU gets to expand its habitat protection efforts in the St. Lawrence region of New York. DU partnered on the easement purchase with the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust.
Louisiana gets return on investment in waterfowl
The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission continued its long-standing partnership with DU by committing 100 percent of its state grants contributions to Ducks Unlimited during its July 8 meeting in Baton Rouge, La. The funds had been divided for the last several years.
The distribution of state grants funding is decided by the Commission. The program is funded through license sales. By law, a portion of all license sales must go to habitat conservation on the breeding grounds. Louisiana has been participating in the program since 1964, longer than any other state.
Photo by Ryan Askren
According to a release from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, after debating the merits of a variety of organizations' appeals for funds, the commission, by a 5-2 vote, determined that DU's matching-funds plan - as Commission member Ronny Graham said - "puts our money where it would do the most good for ducks."
"I am very pleased to see Louisiana increase the return on its investment in waterfowl," said Jerry Holden, DU director of conservation programs for the South Mississippi Flyway Unit. "Last year, we leveraged the $169,000 from Louisiana five times to put $800,000 worth of conservation on the ground in Saskatchewan."
This year, the state estimates a contribution of $350,000. Leveraged with funds from DU, North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants and other partners, that will result in $1.75 million for conservation programs in Canada.