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Top stories for Oct. 12, 2010
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DU's Tomke chairs first Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council meeting

John Tomke, president of Ducks Unlimited de Mexico and chairman of the WHHCC, chaired the council's first meeting Oct. 4-5.
John Tomke, president of Ducks Unlimited de Mexico and chairman of the WHHCC, chaired the council's first meeting Oct. 4-5.

Former DU president and current president of Ducks Unlimited de Mexico John Tomke—now chairman of the new Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council—chaired the first meeting of the WHHCC Oct. 4-5 in Washington, D.C.

The 18-member WHHCC will help promote and preserve America's hunting heritage for future generations and will provide a forum for sportsmen and women to advise the federal government on policies related to wildlife and habitat conservation.

The WHHCC was officially welcomed by Tom Strickland, assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Both U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and DOI Secretary Ken Salazar stopped by the meeting to welcome the members and to further emphasize the important role of the WHHCC in providing advice regarding conservation, wildlife and hunting.

"Overall, I felt this meeting served as a good start for the council; the chemistry of the group was excellent," Tomke said. "The next meeting of the council is targeted for February 2011, but the exact date has not yet been finalized."

Among the briefing topics during the meeting were:

  1. Status of hunting and shooting participation in the United States
  2. National survey of hunting and wildlife-associated recreation
  3. Council for advancement of hunting and shooting sports
  4. North American model of wildlife conservation
  5. The 10-year plan created by the Sporting Conservation Council (the previous advisory committee)
  6. The 2012 Farm Bill
  7. The America's Great Outdoors initiative

The WHHCC members then began deliberation on four major focus areas: increasing public and private funding for wildlife conservation; improving wildlife habitat; expanding public access to public and private lands and educating, recruiting and retaining hunters.

As the final order of business, six actions were approved unanimously by the WHHCC:

  1. Provide a letter to the secretaries supporting full and sustained funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, adding that lands which provide opportunities to hunt and fish be given emphasis and priority in the program. The WHHCC further suggests that 1.5 percent or a minimum of $10 million annually be directed for fee, seasonal or permanent easements that expand access to existing public lands for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.
  2. Provide a letter to the secretaries highlighting the importance of the State Wildlife Grant program and recommending there be no diminution from the current level of support.
  3. Provide a letter of support for the America's Great Outdoors initiative expressing its importance in supporting hunting and conservation. The letter would further express support for expanding access to private lands via increased tax incentives. WHHCC also recommends that the AGO initiative emphasize landscapes that are critical to wildlife and landscapes where efforts are enhanced by partnering with state agencies, NGOs and the farming and ranching communities.
  4. The WHHCC formed an ad-hoc subcommittee to prepare a recommendation for the 2012 Farm Bill with a draft recommendation mailed to WHHCC members prior to the February meeting. Ducks Unlimited will be a member of that ad-hoc group.
  5. The WHHCC also formed an ad-hoc subcommittee to provide potential recommendations on the subject of retention and recruiting of hunters and shooters.
  6. The WHHCC formed an ad-hoc subcommittee to provide potential recommendations on multiple uses of public lands where the use is extensive (including but not limited to issues involving energy).

 




DU kicks off Mississippi wetland mitigation program

The Mississippi Delta
A Mississippi Delta wetland

Ducks Unlimited has received approval to operate the Mississippi Delta In-Lieu Fee Program to fulfill wetland mitigation requirements for parties authorized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to impact wetlands in the Mississippi Delta.

"DU has more than 70 years' experience in wetland enhancement and restoration work and is recognized as North America's leading wetlands conservation organization," Eric Held, manager of mitigation programs in DU's Southern Region, said. "Operating this mitigation program allows us to apply this institutional knowledge and experience to deliver high-quality wetland restoration projects and provide compensation for authorized wetland impacts."

DU is not involved in the decision-making process regulating wetland impacts. The USACE and other regulatory agencies will continue to make all decisions regarding authorization granted for these activities. Parties required to provide mitigation will be able to purchase wetland credits through the in-lieu fee program, allowing public and private developers to meet their mitigation requirements more quickly and cost effectively. Other advantages include reduced permitting time and the ability to transfer all mitigation obligations.

"In-lieu fee programs allow for targeted restoration projects that address specific needs in certain watersheds," Held said. "By using available conservation planning tools, wetland restoration projects conducted via the Mississippi Delta In-Lieu Fee Program will be targeted and delivered to provide maximize benefits for waterfowl and many other species of fish and wildlife."

The USACE; U.S. Environmental Agency; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality approved the program.




Louisiana governor appoints DU CEO Dale Hall to coastal advisory commission

DU CEO Dale Hall was named to the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
DU CEO Dale Hall was named to the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has appointed Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall to the Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation. Hall will serve as one of two representatives from the conservation community.

"I am very pleased to accept Gov. Jindal's appointment. DU has committed a tremendous amount of energy to restoring Louisiana's coastal wetlands, the core of one of our highest conservation priorities," said Hall. "We have been working to restore Louisiana's coastal wetlands for more than 20 years, and we will continue to focus extensive efforts and resources on this continentally significant wintering area for waterfowl."

Ducks Unlimited has a 73-year history of wetland restoration across North America. DU began focusing on coastal restoration in Louisiana in 1985 and has enhanced more than 100,000 acres of coastal habitats in the state. DU's coastal projects benefit waterfowl and a host of other wetland-dependent migratory birds, as well as commercially and recreationally important fisheries, all of which are vital to the region's culture and people.

"Dale Hall's appointment to the Governor's Advisory Commission is a memorable event," said King Milling, advisory board chair. "In his present position as the CEO of Ducks Unlimited, Hall represents an organization that has deep roots in this state and much stake in our future. His tenure as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also allows the board to speak with authority as federal and state agencies try to unravel inconsistent laws and regulations, which in many instances impede our effort to restore the coast. We are delighted at this appointment and look forward to working with him in the future."

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan's Gulf Coast Joint Venture has a goal of conserving enough wetland habitat to support 9 million ducks and 500,000 geese during winter and send them back north to their breeding grounds in good physical condition. The region's continental importance to waterfowl and its extraordinarily high rate of wetland loss make it one of DU's highest conservation priorities.

Today, natural and human-induced changes have severely compromised the region's ability to support waterfowl, other wildlife and fish resources. Decades of wetland degradation have reduced important wetland functions such as protection from storm surges and other hurricane-related impacts, increasing the risk to infrastructure and developments miles inland. Louisiana has lost more than 1 million acres—nearly 40 percent—of its coastal wetlands that were once among the most productive in North America.

"With the BP oil spill, people are finally beginning to realize the disappearance of the Louisiana coast is not a local or even regional problem," Hall said. "This area is vital for waterfowl, other wildlife and people across North America. Without quality habitat on the wintering grounds, waterfowl returning to the prairies and boreal forest to breed may be in poorer physical condition and less successful in producing the next generation of waterfowl. Migratory songbirds depend on coastal wetlands and upland forests for rest and refueling before and after crossing the Gulf of Mexico—habitats also at risk as coastal marshes disappear and inland habitats become more vulnerable to damage from saltwater intrusion or coastal erosion. Similarly, the seafood, tourism and energy industries that serve people nationwide depend on the health of these coastal marshes."

Given the scope and importance of this problem, DU advocates public policies that benefit coastal wetlands at a scale necessary to ensure their long-term sustainability. DU also forms diverse partnerships while continually striving to increase public awareness of the significance of the Louisiana coast to the nation.

"Serving on the Governor's Advisory Commission is an excellent opportunity for DU to put our wetlands conservation expertise to use in an effort to stem the tide of coastal wetland loss, and I am honored to represent DU in this way," Hall said. "DU appreciates Gov. Jindal's leadership on the coastal restoration problem, and we look forward to working with him and the rest of the Advisory Commission on this important issue."

The Governor's Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation advises the governor on the status of Louisiana's coastal wetlands and efforts to protect and restore them. Additionally, the commission strives to foster cooperation among federal, state and local government agencies; conservation organizations and the private sector in relation to coastal protection and restoration activities.




DU's Gulf Coast Response Team disbanded

DU CEO Dale Hall recently disbanded DU's Gulf Coast Response Team. Future needs along the Gulf will be handled by the existing Louisiana Coast Team in DU's Southern Region.
DU CEO Dale Hall recently disbanded DU's Gulf Coast Response Team. Future needs along the Gulf will be handled by the existing Louisiana Coast Team in DU's Southern Region.

DU CEO Dale Hall recently disbanded DU's 16-person Gulf Coast Response Team composed of DU senior scientists, engineers and government-relations specialists who monitored the Gulf oil spill and coordinated DU's actions throughout the crisis. The team also ensured that DU's response to the spill was fully integrated with the organization's objectives in wetlands and waterfowl science, wetlands restoration and public policy.

"First, I thank every team member for the extra work they put in during the last several months as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Hall said. "Their work has been professional and extremely helpful in keeping DU's involvement in the public eye, and more importantly, communicating our response to our members and volunteers. I believe their efforts have raised the profile of the plight of Gulf Coast wetlands both internally and externally."

At a recent DU board meeting in Edmonton, Alberta, Dr. Tom Moorman, director of conservation planning in DU's Southern Region, gave a report on oil spill impacts on waterfowl and coastal wetlands, what DU has accomplished as part of the spill response effort and what lies ahead for DU in the Gulf Coast region.

Moving forward, DU's work in the area will be led by the existing Louisiana Coast Team in DU's Southern Region. "There remains much to do to ensure that we see progress on our long-term conservation and restoration goals," Hall said. "We have to stay involved with policy-related work on settlement funding and with federal and state policies related to restoration of Gulf wetlands and waterfowl habitat. We must also continue working with partners like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to maintain the great success of the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative in the rice-growing parishes and counties of the Gulf."

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