The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) was the focus of an early-morning briefing held in Washington this week. Ducks Unlimited and the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation hosted the breakfast briefing to highlight the history and impact of NAWCA and the need for its reauthorization and correct appropriations.
Rep. Rob Wittman, sponsor of the House bill to reauthorize NAWCA, spoke to the practical nature of the program. "NAWCA is an amazing program that requires that every dollar of federal money get matched by a dollar of non-federal funds. Well, at the last meeting of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, there were three dollars raised to every one dollar of public money. Folks, that is a successful program," he said. "This is something everybody ought to be in favor of because of what it does to preserve critical habitat in the United States."
NAWCA is set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2012. Reauthorization measures have been introduced in the House (H.R. 1960) and the Senate (S. 2282) with strong bipartisan support, but more co-sponsors are needed on both sides to extend the program through 2017 and beyond. NAWCA appropriations have also declined by 25 percent—or $12 million—over the last two years. For a program often matched 3 to 1 by non-federal funding, this actually means $48 million in on-the-ground conservation work cannot be accomplished.
Conservation benefits the United States financially as well as through open spaces for recreation. "Here are the statistics: 8.4 million non-exportable jobs are created every year by outdoor sports and recreation, and $100 billion is generated through federal, state and local taxes every year, returned to the coffers," DU CEO Dale Hall said during the briefing. "A trillion dollars in economy is created by these activities. These are economic facts that go beyond the emotional tie we have to these resources. We want people to have these numbers so they can talk about the real value of programs like NAWCA."
Ducks Unlimited has issued a call to action to its supporters to contact their senators and representative and ask them to reauthorize NAWCA through 2017. For more information, go to www.ducks.org/nawca.