Your DU game plan for August recess

Every August, lawmakers escape the Washington, D.C., humidity to visit constituents at home. The month-long recess is an opportunity to schedule a meeting with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss important issues affecting sportsmen, waterfowl and other wildlife.

Call your legislator’s local office now to set up a meeting while he or she is near your hometown. If there’s a nearby conservation project funded by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) or by the farm bill conservation programs, work with the landowner and invite your legislator to take a tour of it. Congressional members appreciate getting out in the field with their constituents to see the benefits of conservation firsthand.

While you’re dropping in, here are some important waterfowl issues that need to be addressed in Congress:
  • Vital conservation program grant funding is under threat of being completely eliminated. Program budgets were cut because of sequestration, and now the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee has proposed zeroing out several vital grant programs (including NAWCA) completely. These grant programs leverage modest federal dollars with significant non-federal dollars from partners, such as DU, to deliver millions of acres of habitat conservation on the ground. Total federal investments in natural resources and outdoor recreation are equivalent to less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget. However, this federal funding accounts for 60 percent of the direct investments in conservation in the United States. Wetlands conservation as realized under NAWCA cleans our waters, prevents soil erosion, lessens the impacts of floods, buffers coastal storm surges, provides waterfowl and other wildlife habitat, offers outdoor recreation opportunities for hunters, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts and creates jobs for Americans that cannot be exported. Tell members of Congress it’s crucial for conservation programs to be adequately funded.
  • Conservation programs in the farm bill are vital to our country, especially in the Prairie Pothole Region where, over the last several decades, we’ve lost more than of 90 percent of our wetlands and millions of acres of grasslands. The Senate has passed a five-year farm bill, and the House of Representatives has passed a “farm only” bill. The House and Senate versions of the farm bill must go to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two before it can become law. The House is expected to take a vote on a separate nutrition bill in September, before announcing their members of the conference committee. Tell your members of Congress you want a five-year farm bill that includes a national Sodsaver program and re-couples conservation compliance to crop insurance.
  • NAWCA is vital to wetlands protection and restoration and has conserved nearly 27 million acres of wetlands and associated uplands since its creation almost 20 years ago. It’s been so effective that every federally funded dollar is matched by at least three non-federal dollars at the local level by states or conservation organizations, including DU. Find a NAWCA project near you and mention it as an example of why Congress needs to authorize NAWCA for another five years.
  • At the request of waterfowl hunters, Congress established the federal duck stamp in 1934. Since then, funds raised from the duck stamp have conserved 6 million acres of wetland habitat – an area the size of Vermont. To remain effective, the price of the stamp needs to be increased to $25 to keep up with the rising costs of land.
Congress will get back to work in Washington on Monday, Sept. 9, and it’s important that they hear your opinions while they’re home. Next steps? Call legislative offices to schedule an appointment, send a message via social media and visit their website to find public events to attend today!