DU members can make a big difference for waterfowl by becoming actively engaged in public-policy decisions
U.S. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts (center) recently met with DU CEO Dale Hall and Fran Rich, a member of DU's Conservation Programs Committee, in Washington, D.C., to discuss wetland conservation issues. Photo by Chris Jennings, DU.
As you read this, 2010's waterfowl nesting season is winding down. Most of this year's ducklings have already hatched and some are even learning to fly. To successfully nest and raise their young, waterfowl need healthy wetlands and associated upland habitat on the breeding grounds. Ducks Unlimited works with farmers, ranchers, government agencies, and many other partners to protect and restore these vital habitats on the prairies and in other high-priority areas. DU's hard-working and dedicated volunteers are the backbone of the grassroots fund-raising network that enables DU to put this habitat on the ground. Another important component of DU's conservation work that also depends on grassroots support is public policy.
For more than 20 years, DU's governmental affairs staff has worked with the U.S. Congress, presidential administrations, and federal agencies to enact legislation and policies that restore and maintain healthy ecosystems for waterfowl and other wildlife. DU's goal is to foster policies that ensure breeding grounds are healthy and sufficient migration and wintering habitat exists to support waterfowl at key times in their annual cycle. DU continues on that path in 2010.
Much has happened in the public-policy arena over the past few months that could have a significant impact on DU's conservation mission. Following are DU's top public-policy priorities in 2010 and the most recent developments on these issues of vital importance to wetlands and waterfowl:
Maintaining adequate funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
Many DU members heeded the call this spring to contact their congressmen and senators in support of maintaining NAWCA funding at last year's level. Among the most successful conservation programs in history, NAWCA has been responsible for conserving more than 25 million acres of wetlands and associated upland habitat across North America. Unfortunately, this year NAWCA is threatened with a 10 percent funding cut. Because of NAWCA's matching component, every federal dollar this program loses represents an additional three- to four-dollar loss for waterfowl conservation. A 10 percent cut in federal NAWCA dollars would result in a reduction of $15-$20 million in conservation funding. This would have a significant impact on conservation progress being made on the ground for waterfowl and other wildlife.
It's imperative that DU members make their voices heard on this issue by contacting the senators and congressmen who make funding decisions on Capitol Hill. Go to the DU website at www.ducks.org/nawca for a list of these elected officials and step-by-step instructions on how you can contact them. Please help the ducks by speaking up now in support of maintaining NAWCA funding at last year's level.
Increasing the buying power of the federal duck stamp
The federal duck stamp program has conserved more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the national wildlife refuge system. Since 1991, however, the price of the stamp has held steady at $15 while land prices have skyrocketed. A recent analysis found that land values in South Dakota's prairie pothole country have increased sevenfold since the last federal duck stamp price increase. Bipartisan legislation that would increase the price of the federal duck stamp to $25 is pending in Congress. Additional funds generated by this price increase would only be used in areas of crucial importance to waterfowl, ensuring a good return on sportsmen's investment.