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Policy News 2.39

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Top stories for Sept. 28, 2010
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DU's AGO initiatives stress protection of important breeding waterfowl habitat

DU CEO Dale Hall is leading the charge to stress to the Obama administration the importance of America's outdoor heritage through the America's Great Outdoors initiative.
DU CEO Dale Hall is leading the charge to stress to the Administration the importance of America's outdoor heritage through the America's Great Outdoors initiative.

In a letter applauding the Administration for its America's Great Outdoors initiative, Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall also included the organization's recommendations for the initiative going forward.

The AGO concept was designed to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors. Members and supporters of DU took part in 20 of the AGO listening sessions held across the country from June to September. DU is especially interested in seeing the AGO initiative advance conservation of key wildlife habitats that are in jeopardy across the nation, and has presented these recommendations at the various sessions.

"At DU, we believe it is critical that important wildlife habitats across the country remain intact and be secured from development or be restored," Hall said. "Our national heritage of wildlife and other renewable resources is at risk unless we devote more financial resources to their future. Wildlife-related recreation, such as hunting and wildlife viewing, are deeply meaningful for those who participate in such activities and are important to the nation's economy. We anticipate this aspect of America's Great Outdoors will receive thorough consideration in the crafting of the final report and plan."

Particularly important to DU is the protection of critical habitats in the Prairie Pothole Region in the north-central United States. The grasslands, native prairies and wetlands of the PPR support tends of millions of breeding waterfowl, making it the most significant breeding waterfowl habitat in the world. However, the PPR has already lost 70 percent or more of its native grasslands, and DU researchers have documented annual loss rates of up to 2 percent of this habitat. This rate translates into the loss of 50,000 or more ducks each year and means 50 percent of the remaining prairie will be gone in about 30 years.

"All of DU's recommendations include programs and initiatives that are both beneficial to waterfowl and will promote, support and sustain the goals of America's Great Outdoors," Hall said. "We look forward to working with the Administration and its agencies on these programs, and offer our assistance and expertise as requested, particularly on waterfowl, wetland and grassland-related projects. Many of these efforts require Congress to take action, and we are already working with them to shape and implement program legislation."




Michigan congressman praises DU restoration project

Sponsors and conservation partners joined with DU staff and volunteers to celebrate the Brancheau Marsh project
Sponsors and conservation partners joined with DU staff and volunteers to celebrate the Brancheau Marsh project near Newport, Mich. (Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider)

Ducks Unlimited dedicated the Brancheau Marsh project—a 67-acre coastal wetland that is part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge—last week. Sponsors and conservation partners joined with DU staff and volunteers to celebrate the completed restoration at the site near Newport, Mich.

The Brancheau Marsh project's valuable coastal wetlands are important for wildlife and water quality. Visitors will enjoy habitat representative of the area at a time when abundant wetlands once lined the shore of western Lake Erie.

"This project is another fine example of conservation by design. First, we were able to purchase the land, and then a great group of partners led by Ducks Unlimited was able to restore it back to what nature intended," said Congressman John Dingell (MI).

Rep. Dingell's legislation established the DRIWR in 2001. "This project embodies a great partnership among federal, state, local and private agencies and conservation groups, and I am pleased to be a part of it all."

Other speakers included representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Monroe County and New Berlin Township.

"This restoration project is especially important in this area because we have lost more than 90 percent of our historical wetlands," said Steve Dushane, assistant refuge manager. "This project has restored wetlands and enhanced wildlife habitat for migratory birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife and has helped reduce the risk of flooding to local residences and businesses."

Michigan DU State Chairman David Shefferly took a moment to recognize the value of partners in effectively delivering valuable habitat. He also discussed the Michigan PRIDE program (Putting Resources Into Ducks Everywhere) and the potential for local protection and restoration.

"The reason we can dedicate properties like Brancheau is the commitment of so many partners to the task," Shefferly said. "Without the combined resources of all of our partners and DU supporters, we wouldn't be able to enhance this productive area. We've really done something big here."

DU partnered with FWS, Waterfowl USA, the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, Michigan Duck Hunters Association, Metropolitan Affairs Coalition, DTE Energy and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council to complete the restoration on the DRIWR. The work was completed in two phases and involved the creation of a low earthen dike, ditching and water-control structure that allows FWS to emulate the natural conditions that originally existed on the site.




DU volunteers blitz Iowa for constitutional amendment

DU volunteers are encouraging Iowa residents to Vote Yes on Question #1 on Nov. 2, to benefit Iowa's natural resources.
DU volunteers are encouraging Iowa residents to Vote Yes on Question #1 on Nov. 2, to benefit Iowa's natural resources.

During the past two weeks, Iowa Ducks Unlimited volunteers and staff joined a media blitz to get out the vote for Iowa's Water and Land Legacy. Supporters of this proposed ballot measure have been on a 59-stop statewide tour to raise voter awareness of the issue. If passed on Nov. 2 by a simple majority of Iowa voters, this measure would create a dedicated trust fund to protect and enhance the state's natural resources.

"We want to make sure Iowans know about the landmark opportunity to create a permanent trust fund dedicated to improving and protecting our wildlife habitat," said James Roetman, DU Iowa state chairman. "By voting 'Yes' on Question #1, Iowans can help protect our land, water and way of life, while making Iowa a better place to live for future generations."

Roetman was joined on the tour by DU volunteers Dave Haggard, Frank Mertz, Jon Kruse and Dave Riley and DU Regional Biologist Eric Lindstrom. The trust fund would be used to protect and enhance water quality and natural areas throughout the state, including parks, trails and fish and wildlife habitat, as well as conserve Iowa agricultural soils.

For more information, watch a testimonial from Iowa native and DU Chief Biologist Dale Humburg or visit http://www.iowaswaterandlandlegacy.org/.




Tennessee voters to decide on right to hunt and fish

DU volunteers are encouraging Iowa residents to Vote Yes on Question 1 on Nov. 2

On Nov. 2, Tennessee voters will have the chance to vote on becoming the 15th state to protect hunting and/or fishing as a state constitutional right.

The 14 other states that have adopted the amendment to protect hunting and/or fishing are Alabama, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Arizona, Arkansas and South Carolina will vote on similar measures in 2010.

The amendment to the state constitution will prevent anti-hunting and anti-fishing interests from ever shutting down those traditional activities. The amendment still requires proper licenses, regulations and other normal restrictions. Public and private property rights also are not affected.

"Ducks Unlimited supports passage of this change to the Tennessee constitution and we urge all citizens to vote in favor of it," said Dr. Alan Wentz, chief conservation officer of Ducks Unlimited, and resident of Germantown, Tenn.

Ducks Unlimited encourages all states to adopt similar changes to their constitutions so this important part of our nation's heritage can be protected forever.




Ducks Unlimited recognizes Indiana governor, celebrates acquisition, restoration

DU Director of Public Policy Gildo Tori, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana DU State Chairman Curt Lee at the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area celebration
DU Director of Public Policy Gildo Tori, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana DU State Chairman Curt Lee at the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area celebration

Ducks Unlimited presented Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels with a Conservation Leadership Award recognizing the governor's efforts to make Indiana a leader in public land conservation. The award presentation took place at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area during a celebration attended by conservationists to acknowledge the acquisition and ongoing restoration of the more-than-8,000-acre property.

"Long after no one can remember who was governor or what else got done in our era, Goose Pond and our other major projects will be there for the protection of Indiana's natural beauty and the enjoyment of the Hoosiers who follow us," Gov. Daniels said. "Of all the changes we've made and projects we've made happen, none will ever matter more to me."

Goose Pond FWA had been drained and ditched for agricultural use during the beginning of the last century. Recent efforts have focused on restoring the once-thriving wetland to high-quality habitat. The area has become a destination for birders who enjoy viewing an especially diverse list of species.

"The nice thing about working at Goose Pond is that we're continuing to add productive acres for wildlife and people to enjoy," said Mike Sertle, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist for Indiana. "We've been working here for years, slowly restoring the area to a real showcase."

"The reason we can dedicate properties like Goose Pond is the commitment of so many partners to the task," said Indiana DU State Chairman Curt Lee. "Without the combined resources of all of our partners and DU supporters, we wouldn't be able to enhance this productive area. We benefit from the support of the governor too; they're all pieces in the conservation puzzle."

DU partnered with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the North American Wetlands Conservation Council and 11 other conservation partners to acquire and restore the property. Goose Pond FWA was acquired through a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant, and restored through both the Wetlands Reserve Program and additional smaller NAWCA grants. With more than 6,000 acres of emergent scrub-shrub and forested wetlands and 2,000 acres of restored native prairie and hardwood forests, Goose Pond FWA is one of the premiere conservation success stories in Indiana.

Some examples of the conservation achievements in Indiana under Gov. Daniels' leadership:

  • The state launched a major conservation initiative to acquire 43,000 acres of river corridor along 94 miles of the Wabash River and Sugar Creek in west central Indiana and another 26,000 acres along the Muscatatuck River in southern Indiana. Ducks Unlimited is a partner on the project.
  • Protected more than 34,000 acres of sensitive habitat through the Indiana Heritage Trust program
  • Developed and opened the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area near Terre Haute
  • Initiated a proposed land exchange between Camp Atterbury in Johnson County and land in Putnam County near the Putnamville Correctional Facility that will result in an additional 800 acres of recreational land for public use
  • Began cleanup of the Grand Calumet River's West Branch in northwest Indiana
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