Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho
got a firsthand look last week at how a partnership of private and federal funding benefits wetlands conservation during a guided tour of the Chester Wetlands Wildlife Management Area (WMA) near St. Anthony, Idaho. Simpson, the chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, joined members of Ducks Unlimited and local landowners on the tour to see in person how cooperative funding for wetlands restoration and preservation projects benefits everyone—hunters, anglers and conservationists, as well as waterfowl, fish and other wildlife.
"It's obvious when you see the work being done on the ground how important these programs are to waterfowl, [to] wildlife and to future generations," said Simpson. "It's important to maintain funding for them, even in tough economic times.
"Future generations are the ones [that are] going to benefit from the conservation
work being done now. Hopefully, Congress will find support for NAWCA and LWCF, and other conservation funding, that's critical to maintaining these programs."
Simpson's interest in learning more about the critical need for wetlands conservation comes as Congress considers funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
. For more than 20 years, NAWCA has served as a cost-effective, match-based wetlands conservation program that generates 3.2 non-federal dollars for every one federal dollar invested. DU Director of Governmental Affairs Scott Sutherland asked Simpson to relay the message to Congress that by funding LWCF and NAWCA, the government is getting an unprecedented return on its investment.
"In a time of very tight budgets, programs that more than triple taxpayer investments should be fostered," said Sutherland. "Programs such as NAWCA do that and provide results sportsmen and others can see and use.
"Mike Simpson is extremely influential in these matters and has been a supporter. After today he can tell congressional colleagues he has met local landowners who strongly support non-regulatory programs like LWCF and NAWCA, because not only do they conserve and protect wetlands, they provide much-needed jobs which support local economies."
DU's involvement in the Chester Wetlands Restoration Project is a classic example of NAWCA grant money being put to good use. Not only did the funding provided by this NAWCA grant help DU successfully restore 750 acres of land that had been overgrazed, but it also aided in the reconstruction of the water delivery system.
The Chester Segment occupies more than 1,500 acres of the Sand Creek WMA, which encompasses a total of 32,000 acres. Known worldwide for wintering big game herds such as elk, mule deer and moose, Sand Creek is also one of eastern Idaho's most valuable wetland complexes. The Chester Wetlands Segment supports yearlong populations of bald eagles, Canada geese, mallards and trumpeter swans. American wigeon, bufflehead, cinnamon teal, green-winged teal, redheads and ring-necked ducks are seasonal visitors.
Simpson's tour of the WMA concluded with a luncheon and roundtable discussion with more than two dozen local landowners, DU members and conservationists who share a vested interest in the future of Idaho's wetlands and wildlife.
"NAWCA makes it possible for landowners to work in partnership with organizations like Ducks Unlimited and achieve more than what they could do as individuals," said Val Chambers, a fourth-generation landowner from Rexburg, Idaho. "Most farms, ranches and the wild lands around them would be sold—houses built over them—if it weren't for these programs. That's pretty important when you realize that's irreversible."