DU Meets with Rep. Kennedy on Wetlands Loan Act
MAPLE GROVE, Minn., August 9, 2005 – Ryan Heiniger, director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited in Minnesota and Iowa, met today with U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, Minn., and other conservation organizations to discuss the introduction of a new Wetlands Loan Act aimed at conserving critical waterfowl habitat.
Last week, Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty joined Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco in urging the federal government to double the money it spends each year on habitat under the Federal Duck Stamp Program.
“We applaud Congressman Kennedy and Gov. Pawlenty for recognizing the need to increase the rate of protecting critical waterfowl habitat and for their leadership by championing this issue with their colleagues throughout the country,” said Heiniger. “Waterfowl are a continental resource and our approach to reversing their decline in Minnesota and elsewhere in the flyway must also apply the same big-picture approach.”
If enacted, this legislation has the potential to accelerate the conservation of wetlands and grasslands, particularly in the Dakotas and Minnesota where habitat loss is an ongoing issue.
The first Wetland Loan Act was authorized in 1961. It borrowed against projected revenue from the sale of federal duck stamps purchased by hunters and other conservationists. The act was extended twice, and in 1986, the loan advances were forgiven by Congress. This new legislation is being considered because of the accelerating loss of habitat, particularly in the duck breeding areas of North America.
“We are at a critical juncture in conserving duck breeding habitat,” said Dr. Jim Ringelman, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation programs for the Dakotas and Montana. “In the Dakotas alone, we have a backlog of 582 landowners who have volunteered to sell wetland and grassland easements which would protect more than 280,000 acres of critical habitat. This is a unique, but narrow, window of opportunity to secure these habitats for all time for a one-time payment of $100 per acre, but it will take tens of millions of dollars to get it done before it is too late. We don’t have time to waste.”
The details of the proposal, including the amount of the request and geographic priorities, were discussed at the meeting. “We understand the complexity of this issue and look forward to working with members of Congress and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to discuss the details of how the funds will be allocated and how the loan will be repaid,” said Scott Sutherland, director of DU’s Governmental Affairs office in Washington, D.C.
Senior DU volunteers and conservation staff from across the country will be meeting later this week to discuss important conservation issues facing the future of waterfowl, including this legislation.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands − nature’s most productive ecosystem − and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.