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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Ducks Unlimited teams with USFWS to complete million dollar Nevada refuge habitat project


RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif., Jan. 6, 2011 – One of the most significant wetland areas in Nevada, the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, recently received a $1.2 million wetland enhancement thanks to a partnership between Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The refuge ─ which lies at the eastern foot of the towering Ruby Mountains in northeast Nevada ─ is the most remote wildlife refuge in the contiguous United States. Yet, during drought years when most wetland areas in Nevada are dry, the refuge's more than 200 springs keep much of the marsh hydrated, making it an oasis for waterfowl and other wildlife.

The USFWS has identified Ruby Lake as hosting the densest concentration of nesting canvasbacks in the world, the highest nesting density of greater sandhill cranes in northeastern Nevada and one of the most significant black tern nesting populations in Nevada. The refuge also regularly winters more than 40 trumpeter swans. Throughout the year, the refuge supports 15 species of waterfowl and a wide variety of other wetland-dependent species.

"Eastern Nevada is a vast, dry landscape punctuated by a few impressive wetland complexes," said Jeff McCreary, a biologist and manager of conservation programs at DU's Western Regional Office in Sacramento, Calif. "Ruby Lake is part of a collection of Great Basin wetlands that not only provide important habitat for waterfowl, but also important recreational opportunities for Nevadans."

The refuge's importance to waterfowl and other wildlife was the basis for the project. The project sought to enhance 1,755 acres of nesting, feeding and loafing habitat in the refuge's East Marsh by rebuilding a levee and replacing many of the refuge's original water-control structures. Refuge water management infrastructure had deteriorated in the East Marsh to a point close to complete failure that would reduce both the availability and quality of its wetland habitats.

In addition, the project improved 7,300 acres of waterbird nesting habitat in the refuge's South Marsh by increasing water management capabilities and controlling overgrown vegetation. Limited water control out of the South Marsh reduced and eliminated much of the once high-quality nesting habitat for diving ducks by encouraging overgrowth of hardstem bulrush. This limited water control also resulted in "washing" out diving duck nests when South Marsh water levels rose too rapidly for the old water-control structures.

"This project provides tremendous benefits for wildlife and people," said Jeff Mackay, the USFWS biologist for the refuge. "Wildlife will gain habitat and resources critical to the success and growth of their populations, while the citizens of Nevada gain a variety of recreational benefits. The partnership for this project was a diverse group that made this multi-phase, multi-year undertaking possible."

This public-private partnership also included significant financial and in-kind contributions from other partners, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Intermountain West Joint Venture, the Nevada Waterfowl Association, Wildlife and Habitat Improvement of Nevada, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences.

For more information, visit the refuge website at www.fws.gov/rubylake.

Contact Information:

Jeff McCreary, Biologist
Ducks Unlimited
(916) 851-5360 – office

Jeff Mackay, Biologist
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Phone: 775-779-2237

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.

Lauren Oxner


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