Top stories for Aug. 10, 2010
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Senate passes firearm excise tax improvement legislation
Thanks to a unanimous vote by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, legislation that will help firearm and ammunition manufacturers finance their businesses came closer to becoming law.
In July, the Firearms Excise Tax Improvement Act of 2010—legislation sponsored by DU member Rep. Ron Kind (WI)—passed the U.S. House with a 412-6 vote. Now that the Senate has also passed the legislation, the bill must only be signed by the president to become law. That will allow firearms and ammunition manufacturers to pay excise taxes on a quarterly basis as opposed to the current bi-weekly schedule.
The current schedule forces many manufacturers to borrow money at certain times of the year to ensure on-time payments to the Pittman-Robertson fund. Industry members devote costly time to administering the paperwork to make the payments, which are due long before manufacturers are reimbursed by their customers.
The firearm and ammunition excise tax is the major revenue source for funding the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund. Last year alone, firearm and ammunition manufacturers paid approximately $450 million into the fund, which pays for wildlife conservation, shooting ranges and hunter education programs through excise tax payments.
"We are pleased to work with our partners in the sporting arms community to create a system that will be fairer to their business," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "This change will impact the way the [North American Wetlands Conservation Act] program gets a portion of its funding, and we are pleased that the arms industry has pledged to work with DU and our key supporters of NAWCA to ensure strong funding for NAWCA in the future."
DU, partners use NAWCA grant to improve Atchafalaya wetlands
Ducks Unlimited received more than $56,000 through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act small grants program for wetland enhancements on the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge and Sherburne Wildlife Management Area in Iberville Parish, La. The Wetlands America Trust and Ducks Unlimited are providing a $167,000 match for the grant.
"What makes this project particularly beneficial to waterfowl is that it enhances managed moist soil habitat situated within a large tract of bottomland hardwoods. The combination of annual plant communities in close proximity to forested wetlands provides a variety of foods waterfowl need during the winter," said Bob Dew, manager of conservation programs for DU's Southern Region. "Providing this habitat is especially important now, in light of potential impacts to coastal waterfowl habitat from the BP oil spill."
The project area was originally developed as a moist soil impoundment, but inadequate pumping systems failed to facilitate flooding or to allow for active management. Without a dependable source of water, managers are unable to maximize habitat for migratory birds and provide adequate flooding during critical migration periods. This project will be completed in time to provide habitat during peak fall migration.
The area is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. This project is a continuation of a long-standing partnership between DU, FWS and LDWF, but it is their first collaboration on a NAWCA small grant proposal.
"The Service is proud of the cooperative working relationship we have with Ducks Unlimited," said Daniel Breaux, refuge manager. "They have been an outstanding partner over the years, and through our combined efforts we have been successful in helping meet the needs of wintering waterfowl. The spirit of conservation partnership was spelled out clearly in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in 1986. We are glad that tradition continues today."
"This is a unique opportunity for us to work with two of our best partners on one project," Dew said. "We have completed more than 45 projects in Louisiana with USFWS and LDWF over the past 25 years. Both are certainly great partners."
NAWCA's small grants program supports public-private partnerships carrying out projects that further the goals of NAWCA. Project activities are usually smaller in scope and involve fewer project dollars than in the standard grants program. Small grant requests may not exceed $75,000 and funding priority is given to grantees or partners new to NAWCA's grants program.
DU to use NFWF grant on White Lake Conservation Area enhancement project
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will provide a $620,000 grant to DU for habitat restoration and enhancement on White Lake Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish, La.
The 70,965-acre White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area was donated to the state of Louisiana in 2002. The state of Louisiana, through continued management, recognizes White Lake as an area of importance for shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl and secretive marsh birds.
Rice is farmed in rotation (rice/fallow rotation) on approximately 18,000 acres of the conservation area. DU will use grant funds to pay producers in the White Lake Conservation Area to implement short-term (e.g., one year) management practices on agricultural lands to enhance these areas for waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. This project targets 1,000 acres farmed by five separate cooperative farmers. Management practices will include flooding moist soil vegetation in idle rice fields or disking and flooding idled rice fields, with the goal of compensating for short-term food deficits along the coast.
"This generous grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation answers a huge need in the White Lake Conservation Area," said Bob Dew, manager of conservation programs for DU's Southern Region. "Without these funds, more of these agricultural lands would be left dry this winter, making it of little use to the targeted bird species. The work that DU will do thanks to this grant will hopefully ensure that doesn't happen."
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries currently manages a 5,000-acre refuge area for waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds on White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area. This area is the site for a planned initial release of whooping cranes in 2011. DU will use a portion of the NFWF grant to develop a second 900-acre management unit to allow for additional releases in 2012. While the primary intent of the proposed wetland development is to provide habitat for future whooping crane releases, it is expected that this site would also provide excellent waterfowl habitat, especially for year-round resident mottled ducks.