Ducks Unlimited Testifies Before Senate on Farm Bill Programs
Challenges expressed over funding and support for key conservation programs
MEMPHIS, TN, May 12--Ducks Unlimited (DU), the world leader in wetland and waterfowl conservation, represented several major wildlife organizations in Washington D.C. yesterday.
Jeff Nelson, Director of DU's Great Plains Regional Office in Bismarck, North Dakota, (which covers eight north-central states including North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota) testified at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation and Rural Revitalization concerning the conservation components of the 2002 Farm Bill.
The Subcommittee called the hearing to assess the current implementation status of these programs and provide a forum for comment from USDA agencies, agricultural producers, and conservation organizations.
Nelson, representing seven wildlife organizations--whose combined constituency represents hundreds of thousands of concerned conservationists--had an opportunity to present shared views, challenges, and benefits of the Farm Bill conservation programs to the subcommittee. Providing summary examples of how programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), and the new Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) are making a positive impact on wildlife habitats and are in high demand among landowners, Nelson demonstrated the need for continued support of the programs.
"The money being spent on conservation programs through the Farm Bill is a great investment for future generations and is producing measurable benefits for fish and wildlife. Our ongoing partnerships with producers, federal, and state agencies are both appreciated and productive," said Nelson.
"Today's goal was to express the challenges the conservation community faces in carrying out these important programs, and to request funding and support for these initiatives at levels already authorized," he added.
Nelson articulated fears of many in the waterfowl conservation community noting that 22 million acres of CRP, much of it enrolled in the primary waterfowl nesting zone of the U.S., will expire in 2007 and 2008.
He also provided examples of the demand for the conservation programs in the Great Plains region and beyond, "Demand for the WRP is three times greater than the 250,000 acres annually authorized. WRP provides potential feeding habitat for wintering waterfowl, wild turkey, and a myriad of other game and non-game fish and wildlife species. Demand for GRP funding is also overwhelming. In South Dakota, applications for funding totaled $150 million, but only $1.4 million was allocated to the state. In North Dakota, less than 1% of 471 applications could be funded (3 total)."
Don Young, DU's Executive Vice President added, "DU was pleased to have a voice in the proceedings. We hope the subcommittee will consider expansion of several of these popular programs that offer tremendous returns to the American taxpayer, both fiscally and in terms of conservation."
Ducks Unlimited's testimony also represented the views of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, International Association of Wildlife Agencies, Izaak Walton League, Pheasants Forever, The Wildlife Society and Wildlife Management Institute.
Click here for copy of testimony.
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 ecosystems - and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.
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