Top stories for Aug. 17, 2010
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Get out, see your members of Congress
With the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in recess, take this opportunity to see your senators and representatives in your home states. Recently, the House passed an oil spill response bill that would dedicate $900 million per year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Senate still needs to vote on their version of this oil spill bill, and you can help by talking to your senators about the need for full funding of this program.
LWCF is the repository of the portion of offshore oil and gas revenues collected by the federal government that are to be used for land and water conservation. This account typically collects more than $1 billion each year, but has continually been funded far below its authorized level of $900 million. LWCF monies are used to acquire public lands to be used for habitat conservation and outdoor recreation. The program serves two levels of recreation—federal funding and state/local grants. It is used to protect key habitats and pay for local recreation areas, and will foster more access to public lands for outdoor recreation.
During recess, we need your help urging the Senate to pass a similar LWCF provision to make a portion of these funds available for waterfowl-friendly projects. Please also continue to educate your member of Congress on why Ducks Unlimited is important to you and your state. As our members, you are our most powerful voice.
CPC, DU staff meet to discuss 2012 Farm Bill objectives
Ducks Unlimited's Conservation Programs Committee, a volunteer group that helps guide DU in achieving its waterfowl and wetlands conservation mission, along with members of DU's Governmental Affairs team will meet in Spokane, Wash., Thursday to finalize DU's objectives for the 2012 Farm Bill.
In early July, DU's Governmental Affairs Office hosted more than 30 senior volunteers and DU staff from across the country for a two-day meeting to discuss and determine the direction of DU's public policy efforts as they relate to the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. The goal of the meeting was to develop a draft list of policy priorities that will enable DU and its conservation partners to achieve habitat objectives essential for waterfowl and other migratory birds.
Regional staff discussed how they currently utilize farm bill programs to achieve their specific habitat objectives and illustrated both the strengths of some programs and how others could be adjusted to deliver even greater benefits to wetlands and waterfowl conservation. DU's Governmental Affairs Office staff updated the group on the current political atmosphere in Washington, D.C. and how that may impact Farm Bill policy. One overriding factor that will invariably direct major aspects of the next farm bill is the state of the U.S. economy and concern over deepening deficits. The current administration already has made attempts to make cuts in commodity and conservation funding and this will likely have an impact on the farm bill debate.
"The time for preparing for the 2012 Farm Bill is now," said Dan Wrinn, director of public policy at DU's Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C. "This CPC meeting will enable us to clearly delineate what DU's goals for the upcoming farm bill should be. Of course, our ultimate goal is to ensure that the farm bill's conservation programs receive sufficient funding, as they are critical to both waterfowl and landowners."
DU regional vice president, staff member speak up for conservation at Concord AGO session
Last week, Ray Whittemore, director of conservation programs for DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office, and DU Regional Vice President Dick Magie attended the Concord, N.H., listening session for the America's Great Outdoors initiative, which promotes and supports innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and reconnect Americans with the outdoors. The theme of the Concord meeting was "Conservation of Working Forest," as New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the country.
Ray Whittemore, director of conservation programs for DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) were among the top government officials in attendance at the session, which drew a crowd of approximately 250.
The focus of an introductory panel discussion centered on how New Hampshire can maintain a viable and sustainable working forested landscape in light of an unpredictable and volatile forest products market. This unpredictable market is a serious threat to a region where there is a strong tradition for timber companies to keep their areas open to all forms of outdoor recreation, such as hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and hiking—all of which have additional positive impacts on state and local economies. The shaky nature of the forested products market also extends to conservation, such as the loss and fragmentation of fish and wildlife habitat and water quality concerns. Fortunately, federal funding programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act have resulted in opportunities for organizations and agencies to purchase and conserve hundreds of thousands of acres through fee titles or conservation easements.
Dick Magie, DU regional vice president
Whittemore and Magie also attended a smaller breakout session titled "Providing incentives, investments and policies to reconnect Americans to working forests including recreation, wildlife habitat and educational experiences." Whittemore took the opportunity to promote the numerous partnerships that have leveraged federal dollars from programs like NAWCA in an effort to protect habitat for fish and wildlife and providing, in most cases, public access to a variety of educational and outdoor recreational activities.
"I saw this session as a prime opportunity to suggest that programs such as NAWCA and LWCF need to be fully funded to provide and attract private investment and participation in large-scale, landscape-level conservation," said Whittemore. "I also suggested that environmental education should be a part of school curriculum from first grade through high school graduation if our nation's youth are going to come close to understanding the need for conservation and the consequences it has on society from the choices we make."
Whittemore and Magie also took advantage of the chance to speak with Gov. Lynch and to share the DU New England conservation report and literature about NAWCA, the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan with Sen. Shaheen.