Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited both Capitol Hill and the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida last week to celebrate the establishment of four new conservation areas and wildlife refuges. The announcement of these conservation units is a major step forward for efforts to protect crucial waterfowl habitat
, especially the Dakota grasslands, where an initiative aims to conserve 1.7 million acres of grasslands and 240,000 acres of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region
"Ducks Unlimited has worked closely to establish these areas as conservation
strongholds because of their importance to North American waterfowl populations, and we are pleased with the establishment of the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area, the Tulare Basin WMA, Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area," said DU Director of the Governmental Affairs Office Scott Sutherland. "By working in conjunction with the federal government, our wetlands conservation efforts will be maximized to cover a larger area and benefit greater populations of waterfowl and other wildlife."
On October 19, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill to recognize the benefits these new conservation areas will have on wildlife management and outdoor recreation. Joining Salazar at the press conference were senators from the four states that will receive these new conservation areas: Senators Dianne Feinstein of California
, Tim Johnson of South Dakota
, John Thune of South Dakota, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jerry Moran of Kansas
. Also attending the conference to celebrate the occasion was Senator Bill Nelson of Florida
After the ceremony in Washington, D.C., Secretary Salazar traveled to America's first National Wildlife Refuge located near Vero Beach, Florida. Established in 1903, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge features a boardwalk that is filled with 555 commemorative planks, each representing a specific wildlife refuge, wildlife management area or conservation area located in the United States. Joining Secretary Salazar in installing the new planks to the boardwalk was DU Board Chairman John Pope, who helped lay the plank for the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area.
Ducks Unlimited has committed $50 million to the purchase of conservation easements through the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area initiative. By partnering with ranchers, farmers and private landowners, the program will have a strong overall impact on waterfowl conservation while also protecting ranching activities.
By engaging in public-private partnerships and working to establish these areas, Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are expanding hunting access and conserving vital habitat for ducks and geese. The 97 million acre National Wildlife Refuge System administers a network of public lands and waters that provide hunting
and fishing opportunities for sportsmen nationwide, and Ducks Unlimited will continue to be at the forefront of efforts to increase and improve habitat for the benefit of both wildlife and people.