WASHINGTON – September 25, 2009 – Waterfowlers across the country are gearing up for the annual National Hunting and Fishing Day, preparing to celebrate the best way they know: in the duck blind.
More than 2.5 million Americans hunt migratory game birds like ducks and geese every year, spending a combined 19 million days in the duck blind. These hunters are an economic powerhouse, part of the $76 billion that hunters and anglers contribute to the U.S. economy each year.
Hunters are also some of the strongest supporters of the environment. A forward thinking group of hunters got together in 1937 to form Ducks Unlimited just to ensure that waterfowl would continue to be a viable game species across North America – and have conserved more than 13 million acres of waterfowl habitat across the continent since.
"Hunters were the original environmentalists," said Randy Graves, Chief Executive Officer for Ducks Unlimited. "From programs like the Federal Duck Stamp and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, hunters have been a driving force for funding land conservation on a continental scale."
Other programs, like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have also been a boon for waterfowl - more than 2.5 million ducks are reared on CRP lands in the Prairie Pothole Region of North and South Dakota, Montana, Iowa, and Minnesota. This area of the country is so productive for breeding waterfowl that it is often called "America's Duck Factory."
However, despite the contributions of hunters over the years, waterfowl and wildlife habitat remains at risk. Two Supreme Court cases stripped Clean Water Act protections from more than 20 million acres of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region, threatening America's Duck Factory with contaminated surface water that also feeds into local drinking water supplies.
In addition to the threats to clean water, other programs that have benefited both hunters and private landowners are also at risk. The acreage cap on the Conservation Reserve Program was lowered in the 2008 Farm Bill, and many landowners are scrambling to find alternatives as their contracts expire. Landowners looking to conserve their land for future generations are also facing an uncertain future, as incentives to enroll land in conservation easements will expire at the end of the year.
Ducks Unlimited staff in Washington DC, regional offices, and throughout the country are working with Congress, federal agencies, and state and local governments to find practical solutions that benefit waterfowl, waterfowlers, and the public at large. Current legislation includes fixes for the Clean Water Act and conservation easement tax incentives, as well as increasing the conservation value of the Federal Duck Stamp and enhancing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Ducks Unlimited also supports legislation to promote America's hunting heritage and promoting increased hunting access.
In the meantime, Ducks Unlimited chapters across the country will be marking National Hunting and Fishing Day by getting outdoors. In Nebraska, the Ducks Unlimited Verona Complex will be hosting youth waterfowl hunts on September 26 and 27. And in Ohio, the Zanesville chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be holding a Greenwings event for youth 17 years old and younger. Information on other events across the country can be found at www.ducks.org.
To learn more about how Ducks Unlimited is working to improve wetlands and waterfowl habitat in the public policy arena, please visit www.ducks.org/publicpolicy.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. It 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.