WASHINGTON – Sept. 22, 2009 – Ducks Unlimited testified before a congressional subcommittee today to urge the expansion of the popular North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Director of DU's Governmental Affairs Office Scott Sutherland presented testimony to the House Resources Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee, supporting a bill from Congressman Robert Wittman (Va.) that would encourage increased funding from Canadian sources for the program.
"NAWCA continues to be one of the great success stories for conservation, and by enhancing the program to allow investment from Canadian sources that success can continue," Sutherland said before the hearing. "Allowing Canadian funds to match the federal grants will help continue NAWCA projects to be matched by an average of $2 for every dollar from the U.S. government."
In the 20 years of the program, there have been more than 1,600 NAWCA projects that have conserved more than 25 million acres of habitat across North America. Each project requires at least a 1:1 match for each dollar from the federal government – however, the projects often attract 2-3 times that from conservationists, local governments, and others. Over $1 billion in federal grants have been allocated for NAWCA projects – a figure that has leveraged an additional $3 billion from matching and non-matching funds.
"Under my legislation, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act would be amended to allow up to 50 percent of the non-federal share of projects in Canada to be paid for by Canadian conservation supporters," said Congressman Wittman. Wittman is a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission – the panel that reviews and approves NAWCA projects. "My legislation will allow and encourage our Canadian conservation partners to fund a greater number of important wetland preservation projects north of the border."
Congressman Wittman introduced the bill (H.R. 3433) to ensure that the local money that Canadian partners are currently raising can be counted towards the required matching funds. Millions of waterfowl that spend the winter months in the U.S. are reared on the Canadian prairie and in the boreal forests.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization and has conserved more than 12 million acres. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands – nature's most productive ecosystem – and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres important to waterfowl each year.