MBCC has opened 4 million acres of waterfowl habitat to sportsmen

This month, the Waterfowl Advocate interviewed members of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission Sen. Mark Pryor (AR) and Rep. Rob Wittman (VA).

 Sen. Mark Pryor (AR)
 Rep. Rob Wittman (VA)
What is your role on the MBCC?

Sen. Pryor: As a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, I help consider and approve new areas of land and water for conservation. These areas are then used to establish or expand existing waterfowl refuges. The best part is securing conservation areas in Arkansas so I can hit my [bag] limit while hunting in the state.

Rep. Wittman: The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission was created by Congress in 1929 to protect migratory bird habitat through federal land and water acquisitions. The Commission also establishes new National Wildlife Refuges. 

It is an honor to be one of two members of the U.S. House of Representatives to serve on the Commission. I’m fortunate to serve on the Commission with Senator Mark Pyror of Arkansas, Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, and Representative John Dingell of Michigan. 
The Commission meets three times a year to consider and approve critical land acquisitions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

DU: Why is the conservation of migratory bird habitat so important?

Sen. Pryor: Like most Arkansans, I was born and bred on hunting, fishing, and camping. Preserving our outdoor areas is not only important to hunters and anglers, but to future generations—like my children—who continue to enjoy our public lands. 

Rep. Wittman: Wetlands provide critical habitat for more than 900 species of fish and wildlife, and they are particularly important to the life cycle of migratory birds. Protecting bird habitat ensures future healthy populations of ducks, geese and other migratory birds. Additionally, wetlands serve as natural flood control barriers, purify groundwater and reduce soil erosion. 

DU: The majority of the funds the MBCC has to work with come from the sale of duck stamps. Do you support increasing the price of the duck stamp? Why or why not?

Sen. Pryor: Keeping hunting affordable and accessible to as many people as possible is very important to me. That being said, 1991 was the last time the price of the duck stamp was increased. Unfortunately, it now costs three to four times more to purchase an acre of waterfowl habitat. If we want to keep our wildlife population healthy and thriving, we may need to consider adjusting the cost to keep up with inflation. 

Rep. Wittman: The price of the duck stamp was last increased in 1991 and has not kept pace with inflation or rising land prices. I’ll often “double up” by purchasing multiple duck stamps each year, because I know how important these dollars are to conservation. I believe it makes sense to allow the duck stamp price to rise in order to capitalize on critical habitat conservation needs across the country. 

DU: You were also recently named a Vice Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. What are your sportsmen’s priorities for the 113th Congress?

Sen. Pryor: As Vice Chair, I will continue to push for passage of the Sportsmen’s Package. I also plan to promote the Electronic Duck Stamp Act, a bipartisan bill I introduced with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) that increases online access to duck stamps. Finally, I plan to team up with Senator John Boozman (R-AR) on legislation to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from unfairly penalizing sportsmen for hunting over rolled rice fields. 

DU: You are also a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force. Why is Chesapeake Bay so important?

Rep. Wittman: As the largest freshwater estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to 16 million people. The Bay accounts for billions of dollars in economic and recreational revenue, while also serving as the site of major ports and military bases. Chesapeake Bay is truly a “national treasure.” By further restoring Chesapeake Bay, we can support job creation while also protecting our natural resources right here in Virginia.

DU: Anything else to add?

Sen. Pryor: Enjoying the outdoors is a way of life for millions of American families. Through my work on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, I hope I can preserve these outdoor traditions for generations to come.

Rep. Wittman: As an avid hunter, preserving habitat for waterfowl and wildlife is important to me. However, even more important is protecting those resources for future generations. I want my grandchildren, and the generations that follow, to have the opportunity to experience the joy of the outdoors as I have, watching the sun rise through the mist in a marsh and listening for that telltale whistle of wings overhead. For hunters and non-hunters alike, the preservation of waterfowl habitat and other natural areas is a truly valuable effort, one that makes both economic and environmental sense.  

Ducks Unlimited has been a critical partner and supporter of these efforts in Washington to protect habitat and modernize the duck stamp program.