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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Wetlands on the Edge

Threatened by development, pollution, and rising seas, coastal marshes face an uncertain future
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DU is actively working with many partners to restore coastal wetlands in the Pacific Northwest. Major private funding for these efforts has been provided by Stan and Kristine Baty, The Boeing Company Charitable Trust, Roy T. and Susan W. Christopherson, Eric and Holly Dillon, Scott and Lisa Gunning, Fred W. Hines Jr., and Rory and Joyce McCallum. Extensive research has documented that coastal wetland restoration not only benefits waterfowl but also fisheries and a variety of other wildlife. For example, a partnership involving DU, the USFWS, and the Nisqually Indian Tribe recently restored 762 acres of coastal wetlands on Washington's Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, the largest estuary restoration effort ever completed in the Pacific Northwest. This project will provide valuable new habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, federally threatened Chinook salmon, and many other fish and wildlife species. Other major funding partners in this $10 million project included the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Salmon Funding Recovery Board, Larry and Marg O'Neil, Topics Entertainment (Greg and Carol James), and Wildlife Forever Fund.

Another important DU objective in the Pacific Northwest is protecting undeveloped agricultural lands adjacent to important coastal waterfowl habitats. DU recently received support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to launch a new farmland easement program on Washington's Puget Sound designed to help mitigate future impacts of sea-level rise on coastal wetlands. This program will complement similar land protection work being conducted by DU Canada in British Columbia's Fraser River Delta and other waterfowl-rich areas along the British Columbia coast.

DU also has an active coastal wetlands conservation program in California. A key focus area is the San Francisco Bay estuary, which supports 50 percent of the Pacific Flyway's diving ducks including large numbers of wintering canvasbacks. As in much of California, this estuary has lost more than 90 percent of its historic wetlands. Ducks Unlimited is working with many partners–including the USFWS, California Department of Fish and Game, California Wildlife Conservation Board, State Coastal Conservancy, and NOAA–to restore coastal habitat surrounding the estuary. Over the last five years, DU has completed or initiated 40 projects at a combined cost of $41 million that will collectively conserve more than 18,000 acres of coastal wetlands and associated habitats in California.

While DU and its partners are making significant progress in conserving coastal wetlands in many areas of North America, the future of these fragile waterfowl habitats remains tenuous. Ultimately, the fate of our coastal wetlands will be determined by how well we manage future population growth and development along our coasts, how committed we are to clean air and water, and how proactively we respond to the realities of sea-level rise. As society debates how to address these challenges, our coastal wetlands and the waterfowl that depend on them hang in the balance.

The Other Coastal Wetlands

Some of North America's most important coastal wetlands are located far from the ocean. The Great Lakes watershed contains extensive coastal marshes that support continentally significant populations of black ducks, mallards, canvasbacks, redheads, scaup, tundra swans, and Canada geese. Sadly, development, pollution, and invasive species like common reed (phragmites) have degraded many of the region's historic wetlands.

To help sustain and increase waterfowl populations in the Great Lakes watershed, DU is working with partners like the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, the Dean L. and Rosemarie Buntrock Foundation, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, and Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation to conserve coastal wetlands and associated shoreline habitats in several major focus areas. Through science-based strategic planning, DU has identified a need to conserve at least an additional 200,000 acres of wetlands and native grasslands in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes watershed and more than 80,000 acres of freshwater coastal marsh in Canada. DU is hopeful that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a $475 million commitment to restoring the Great Lakes recently passed by Congress and signed by the president, will be a catalyst for widespread restoration of wetlands and waterfowl habitat throughout the Great Lakes basin.

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