MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Oct. 27, 2010 – DU CEO Dale Hall, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Executive Director Jeff Trandahl and Kevin Norton, Louisiana state conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, visited sites in the Vermilion and Cameron parishes in southwest Louisiana that were recently flooded under the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative. The group also met with farmers during the tour to discuss their experiences with the MBHI and how future partnerships with rice producers might operate.
DU CEO Dale Hall (left) surveys flooded MBHI habitats in Louisiana with Kevin Norton, Louisiana state conservationist for NRCS (center), and Jeff Trandahl, NFWF executive director (right).
DU's participation in the MBHI resulted from a $2.5 million grant DU received from NFWF to provide additional habitat for waterfowl and other birds migrating to the Gulf Coast this fall and winter. The goal of the initiative was to impact 20,000 acres of wetland habitat on lands adjacent to or near Gulf Coast marshes. However, to date, DU, in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has used the grant to impact approximately 79,000 wetland acres in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.
"The value of the partnership between DU, NFWF and NRCS in executing these on-the-ground projects cannot be overstated," Hall said. "During the tour, we were able to see the amazing benefits these additional habitats provide waterfowl that migrate to the Gulf Coast. We need more of the collaboration that made the MBHI possible if we plan to combat the negative effects that disappearing coastal wetlands have on waterfowl."
The additional habitat will help address long-term deficits in feeding habitat resulting from massive coastal wetland losses during the past decades. A recent Gulf Coast Joint Venture study found that in southeast Louisiana alone, coastal marsh food resources may support 1.3 million fewer waterfowl than they likely did during the 1970s. Research indicates there isn't enough food to support North American Waterfowl Management Plan population goals for wintering waterfowl along the Gulf Coast.
"Using resources from NFWF's Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife, we can make an immediate difference for shorebirds, waterfowl and marsh bird populations affected by the spill," Trandahl said when NFWF gave DU the grant. "Through our collaboration with Ducks Unlimited, we can put projects on the ground to benefit these species now."
Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.