MEMPHIS, Tenn. – April 10, 2013 – Conservationists, ranchers and private landowners in the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area (DGCA) have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the president’s proposed budget due to possible increases in conservation easement funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This proposal could benefit landowners in the Dakotas and provide much-needed voluntary incentives to protect prairie habitat. Ducks Unlimited has been a staunch supporter of the DGCA since its 2011 inception.
For almost 50 years, the LWCF has been the nation’s primary non-taxpayer-based tool to conserve parks, wildlife refuges, forests, rivers, trails, battlefields, historic and cultural sites, urban parks and playgrounds and other important federal, state and local public lands. The program is funded through revenues from offshore oil and gas development.
The president’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposes an LWCF investment of $600 million from oil and gas revenues, laying the groundwork to end the chronic diversion of much of the $900 million deposited into the LWCF account to other uses. In moving toward reducing the diversion, the president’s proposed budget calls for mandatory use of one third ($200 million) of LWCF funds for their intended conservation purposes. In Fiscal Year 2015, the president has proposed making all $900 million mandatory for LWCF, which would be a first for the account. More than $11 million is slated for the DGCA and the Dakota Tall Grass Prairie Wildlife Management Area.
“While additional conservation funding for the prairies is still needed, this is a good start that must be built upon with partners and additional federal funding,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. “DU will continue its substantial investment in conservation of the prairies in partnership with others.”
The purpose of the DGCA is to provide a voluntary and financially feasible way for ranchers and other private landowners to conserve more than 2 million acres of native grasslands and wetlands.
“The president’s proposal ensures honest accountability in the federal budgeting process by putting a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues where they were meant to be spent: outdoor recreation opportunities and protecting working lands, wildlife habitat and parks for future generations,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “America’s prairies are critical to sustaining waterfowl populations, and the proposed budget would include continued funding for the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area through conservation easements.”
The area is of special importance to Ducks Unlimited because it is located in the Prairie Pothole Regio
n, which is commonly referred to as North America’s "Duck Factory"
because it plays a central role in sustaining strong duck populations, making it a top conservation priority. This historically waterfowl-friendly landscape dedicated to grass-based agriculture is being converted to row crops at alarming rates and concerted efforts are needed to ensure the current landscape is conserved for a variety of societal benefits, including wildlife habitat, flood abatement, clean water and more. To demonstrate support for the project, DU committed $50 million over 10 years to purchase easements under DGCA.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. 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 13 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. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org
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