Migratory Bird Joint Ventures: Quiet Treasures

Insights from DU CEO Dale Hall

Photo © Michael Furtman

Discussions at Ducks Unlimited about the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), and the Farm Bill are common and usually at the center of our efforts. We know how important these laws and this plan are to our mission of filling the skies with waterfowl, but we don't often talk about how we take those funds and work with partners on the larger scale of all migratory birds. You see, it isn't just waterfowl that need the habitats we work so diligently and efficiently to create; all wildlife need water and healthy habitats.

In 1986, the NAWMP came into being to create a foundation of consistent goals, data collection, and management actions to ensure that migratory birds were properly managed under the eight-decades-old Migratory Bird Treaty signed by the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) in 1916 and later joined by Mexico in 1936. This plan is the guiding document under which all conservation entities, both government and nongovernment, work together to ensure the continued existence of healthy populations of migratory waterfowl. At Ducks Unlimited, our International Conservation Plan has been written to fit well within the objectives and guidelines of the NAWMP. So much so that in the recent 30-year update of the NAWMP, our former chief scientist, Dale Humburg, was assigned to lead the overall effort. Ducks Unlimited is seen as a key leader in all aspects of science and waterfowl management.

Less known are the Joint Ventures, which were established under the NAWMP to be geographic "teams" of scientists representing all stakeholders in order to address the needs and possible partnership actions that could be undertaken. As with all our work, science drives the discussions and is the end measurement against which all actions are judged. Today, every state is covered by one of the 24 Joint Ventures. Since their creation, Joint Ventures have invested over $4.5 billion to conserve more than 27 million acres of critical habitat for wildlife and people, matching every appropriated dollar with $31 in nonfederal funds!

Joint Ventures are voluntary, cooperative, regional partnerships of private industry and private landowners working alongside government agencies, nonprofit organizations, tribes, and academia to build and sustain a healthy world for birds, other wildlife, and people. Over time, there have been more than 5,700 partners. Ducks Unlimited is involved in every Joint Venture to ensure that those habitats and populations important to our mission are front and center. I recently had the pleasure of visiting with scientists on the Waterfowl Technical Committees of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast Joint Ventures and, as always, walked away feeling that our science is in very capable hands. This is true all across America.

Examples of Joint Ventures that are within our priority landscapes are the Central Valley JV, Gulf Coast JV, Prairie Potholes JV, and Rainwater Basin JV, which are each representatives of our nesting, migratory, or wintering grounds priorities. Originally, the Joint Ventures were waterfowl-only due to their creation under the NAWMP. However, as years went on, it became clear that all migratory birds shared common habitats and flyways. Today, they are known as "All Bird Joint Ventures," and receive guidance from other bird management plans that include neotropical (songbirds), shorebirds, and others. 

One can be excused for not having heard much about the Joint Ventures because they have simply kept their heads down, worked hard, and achieved phenomenal accomplishments for our birds and their habitats. We need to make sure that this great system of partnerships gets the support it deserves.

Dale Hall, 
Chief Executive Officer