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Ducks Unlimited & Partners to Restore Louisiana Coastal Wetlands - LA

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MEMPHIS, Tenn., October 6, 2005 – Ducks Unlimited and several partners have been approved for a project under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to help restore more than 1,500 acres of wetlands along Louisiana’s hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast. Approximately $2.3 million in matching funds from partners will be paired with $995,000 in NAWCA funds to underwrite restoration.

The project sites are located in Cameron, Calcasieu, and Vermilion Parishes, all of which were hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“Louisiana’s coastal wetlands have long been a conservation priority for Ducks Unlimited, but in light of the recent devastation in those areas, the need for wetlands restoration work there is more important now than ever,” said Jerry Holden, Director of Conservation Programs in Louisiana. “With these funds, we’ll be able to begin making a real difference for wetlands restoration post hurricanes Katrina and Rita.”

Partners in the project include: Ducks Unlimited, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Vermilion Corporation, BP America Inc., USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Partners’ contributions to the project amount to $2,317,639 in matching funds and $11,816 in non-matching funds. Ducks Unlimited leverages grassroots dollars through NAWCA grants to conserve more habitat.  DU contributed $102,639 in matching funds to leverage this federal grant.

Holden said he expects the project to take two years to complete.

The majority of the project will focus on restoring or enhancing wetlands on private lands in the Gulf Coast Joint Venture’s Chenier Plain Initiative Area. This is one of the most important habitats in North America for migrating and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds.

Even before hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the coast, these wetlands were in need of restoration. An extensive network of manmade waterways has increased tidal energy and allowed saltwater to intrude in these already-weakened ecosystems. DU and partners plan to restore the habitats by constructing 90,500 linear feet of “duck-wing” earthen terraces in shallow, open-water areas where marshes once existed. Smooth cordgrass will be established on the terraces to encourage growth of aquatic vegetation by reducing wind-driven wave action, which causes erosion and water turbidity.

“Presently, at some of these sites there are just vast stretches of open water where the wind kicks up sediments off the bottom and suspends it in the water, making it look like chocolate milk. This prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom, where food plants for ducks and geese once grew,” Holden explained.

“We can effectively stop this cycle by building terraces and planting them with cordgrass. Once the terraces have stabilized the habitat, instead of a muddy mess, it be becomes like a mat of vegetation, and waterfowl just flock to these sites. When you boat through one of these terraced marshes, you’ll often kick up gadwall, mottled ducks, teal and pintail by the thousands. In fact, mottled ducks will even nest in the emerging cordgrass. It’s a very appealing situation for coastal waterfowl.”

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) was enacted in 1989 and provides federal cost-share funding to support the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. NAWCA is a non-regulatory, incentive-based, voluntary wildlife conservation program.

NAWCA stimulates public-private partnerships to protect, restore, and manage wetland habitats for a diversity of migratory birds and other wildlife. NAWCA partnership grants play an important role in meeting the DU mission of habitat conservation. In addition, many projects provide outstanding recreational opportunities, from bird watching to hunting.

NAWCA provides challenge grants for wetlands conservation projects in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Every $1 of federal money allotted to NAWCA must be matched by $1 or more from non-federal sources like Ducks Unlimited, or state fish and wildlife agencies. Because this program is so effective, funds are often tripled or quadrupled at the local level.

The Ducks Unlimited Governmental Affairs staff works with Congress in support of annual funding for NAWCA to continue the Act’s waterfowl conservation success. “Senator Landrieu, Senator Vitter and the House delegation have been very supportive of increased funding for NAWCA,” said Scott Sutherland, the Director of DU’s Governmental Affairs Office. “This project is an outstanding example of NAWCA’s ability to foster public-private partnerships to restore wetlands at a critical time for the benefit of wildlife and people.”

To date, NAWCA has helped fund more than 1,300 projects on over 20 million acres in all 50 states, every province of Canada and areas of Mexico. More than 2,000 partners, including private landowners, industry and state governments have worked together to conserve wildlife habitat through NAWCA grants.

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.

Contact: Chad Courville
(337) 291-3068
ccourville@ducks.org

Laura Houseal
(901) 758-3764
lhouseal@ducks.org

Look for Ducks Unlimited on the World Wide Web at www.ducks.org. Tune into The World of Ducks Unlimited Radio Network, and starting again in July, watch Ducks Unlimited Television on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN).
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