Ducks Unlimited’s partnership with the Department of the Interior (DOI), and especially the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), covers a broad range of issues. Many DOI programs provide a wealth of benefits to wetlands, waterfowl, and wildlife habitat and will be extremely valuable in the future as we work to protect America’s most important natural areas.
FWS-North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
Background: Enacted in 1989, NAWCA provides federal cost-share funding to support habitat for wetland-dependent wildlife through challenge grants for habitat projects in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. NAWCA partnership grants play an essential role in realizing the success of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the model for North American multi-species habitat conservation. It restores wetlands systems that have been altered, enhances water availability in time of drought, and mitigates damaging effects of floods.
Need: NAWCA has become one of the federal government’s most effective and popular conservation programs. It was recommended for $42.6 million in appropriations for FY09. Every dollar of federal funds allotted to NAWCA must be matched by one or more non-federal dollars from sources such as NGOs, state fish and wildlife agencies, or corporations. NAWCA has been a benchmark of fiscal responsibility by providing an excellent return on a relatively modest federal investment. These actions stimulate public-private partnerships to protect, restore, and manage wetland habitats for a diverse population of migratory birds and other wildlife. It is extremely popular with lawmakers and landowners.
Recommendations: DU urges the Obama Administration to support appropriations that will continue and build upon this very successful program. Congressional reauthorization of this program is due by late 2011.
FWS-National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS)
Background: At 97 million acres, the NWRS is the world’s premiere system of public lands devoted to conserving wildlife. Under the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program, DU partners with the FWS and private landowners to add lands to the Refuge System, particularly in high priority areas of the northern Great Plains. DU is a charter member of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a diverse 21-organization effort to address operations and maintenance funding deficits within the NWRS.
Need: Appropriations for the Refuge System have been inadequate for decades, especially “Operations and Maintenance” funding. Congress passed a spending bill that included a critically needed increase to a total of $434 million. This level of funding helps, but does not cover, the full cost of operating the NWRS, and DU believes that a minimum increase of $15 million annually will be necessary to cover costs and inflation. The lack of funding evident over several years has led to the degradation of more than 2.3 million acres due to invasive species, shortage of water on western refuges due to poor water infrastructure, viewing trails in disrepair, elimination of visitor education programs, and a lack of security leading to rising crime. It is crucial that funding be increased for the NWRS to benefit our nation’s wildlife resources.
Recommendations: The top funding priority for the NWRS is an additional $10 million/year for the Small Wetlands Acquisition program. CARE requests that the Administration support full appropriations of $570 million for fiscal year 2010 and recommends funding of the refuge system at $765 million by fiscal year 2015. DU urges the Administration to make adequate Operations and Maintenance funding for proper stewardship of the NWRS a priority in its budget recommendation to Congress. DU also encourages the Administration to support increased opportunities for hunting and fishing in the NWRS that are consistent with the refuge’s conservation mission.
FWS-Division of Migratory Bird Management (DMBM)
Background: The Division of Migratory Bird Management (DMBM) has a history of using cooperative conservation efforts to perpetuate healthy populations of migratory birds in North and South America. DU supports the DMBM’s programs that survey bird populations, monitor effects of climate change, and prepare focal species initiatives.
Need: For over 50 years FWS has flown specific routes to determine the status of continental waterfowl populations. Due to a dangerously aging fleet and the price of fuel, it has become more expensive to conduct bird population surveys and monitor the effects of climate change. The surveys serve as the basis for estimating waterfowl populations and informing wildlife managers on data needed to sustain populations. Over the past three years, DMBM has begun to address declining populations of 9 focal species, with an additional 30 species identified as critical. Implementation of these plans is highly dependent on resources, and funding must be increased to allow DMBM to begin these projects.
Recommendations: DU urges the Administration to increase funding to $36 million for the conservation and monitoring of these vital waterfowl and bird programs.
Wetlands Loan Act and the Federal Duck Stamp Program
Background: The Wetlands Loan Act, first enacted in 1961, authorized an advance of funds against future sales of the federal Duck Stamp to accelerate the acquisition of refuge habitat for migratory waterfowl. Funds from sale of Duck Stamps have purchased more than 5.2 million acres of waterfowl habitat, thus helping to create the NWRS.
Need: The Federal Duck Stamp price hasn’t been increased since 1991 and its buying power has decreased dramatically since that time. Land prices have outstripped the stamp’s ability to protect habitat at the current price, and each year stamp revenues buy less and less land. For example, the price of land in the Prairie Pothole Region of North and South Dakota, a vital waterfowl nesting habitat, has gone up dramatically and in some areas it has tripled in the past ten years.
Recommendations: Raising the price of the Federal Duck Stamp will dramatically increase our ability to secure vital wetlands habitat. All evidence points to further increases in land prices, and we must capitalize on the need now rather than waiting for prices to climb. DU urges the Administration to propose increasing the price of the duck stamp to $25 immediately, and to $35 by 2015, to begin to offset inflation and the rising cost of land so crucial to wildlife.
Other FWS Programs
Numerous other FWS programs are critical to protecting and managing wildlife habitat. DU recommends that these programs be fully funded. They include the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Coastal Program, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Program, National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program, and Joint Ventures Programs.
For more information on NAWCA, please see our NAWCA homepage