Great Lakes Nawca Grant

Ducks Unlimited

Native habitats along Lake Erie’s coastal wetlands, Green Bay and the Montezuma Wetlands Complex will be restored after the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) allocated more than $84.3 million in North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants matched by over $139.8 million in partner funds. The MBCC approved an additional $2.7 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve habitat on two national wildlife refuges—Blackwater (Maryland) and Silvio O. Conte (New Hampshire).

Ducks Unlimited (DU) had four Great Lakes Initiative (GLI) projects approved by the MBCC, including the Western Lake Erie Project I (Ohio), Lake Erie Coastal Wetlands IV (Ohio), Green Bay – Marquette Coastal III (Wisconsin) and Northern Montezuma Wetlands Complex V (New York).

“Since 1989, no program has been more effective at restoring critical habitat across the continent than NAWCA,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. “While the program was designed to benefit migratory birds and their habitat, the benefits of NAWCA extend to our water supply, the resilience of our communities, the strength of our outdoor economy, and so much more. Much of that success is owed to its consistent, bipartisan support from Congress, and we’re looking forward to getting these new projects underway.”

NAWCA grants total more than $2.1 billion and have leveraged $4.3 billion in contributions from partners. These contributions have far exceeded match requirements, allowing for the successful implementation of wetland habitat restoration projects across North America. Federal and non-federal funding has resulted in the conservation of over 32 million acres of wetlands and associated uplands across North America.

The abundance of wildlife, including many species of waterfowl, other migratory birds, fish and mammals supported by wetlands, translates into multi-billion-dollar activities for Americans who enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and photography. NAWCA partnership grants play an important role in meeting DU’s mission, from restoring altered wetlands and enhancing water quality to reducing soil erosion and mitigating the damaging effects of floods. In addition, many projects provide outstanding recreational opportunities, like hunting and bird watching.

Here is a closer look at the details of each Great Lakes project:

Western Lake Erie Coastal Project I

Spread across 3,717 acres of public and private wetlands, riparian areas and associated uplands along western Lake Erie, this effort will expand and improve the amount of breeding, migratory stopover and wintering habitat for bird species such as scaup, trumpeter swans and mallards. Also, the annual Biggest Week in American Birding festival is held each spring at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, an acquisition included in this project. The 2023 festival attracted 90,000 birders from 49 states and 11 countries. Birders documented 243 bird species while injecting $40 million into local businesses.

“Northwest Ohio is such a historic and critical area for migrating waterfowl as they continue their journey south each fall, so it’s important that DU and our partners return more wetlands to the landscape,” said DU Senior Regional Biologist Russ Terry. “We’ve had tremendous success conserving habitat in this part of the country because of our close relationships with state and federal agencies, but also private duck clubs, like Toussaint Shooting Club and Winous Point Shooting Club”.

Lake Erie Coastal Wetlands IV

Situated on the southern shore of Lake Erie, the 10-county project will permanently protect 758 acres of forested, 255 acres of emergent, 441 acres of scrub-shrub, and 14 acres of riverine wetlands. Another 1,322 acres of uplands, much of which is deciduous forest, will also be preserved. This diverse habitat provides nesting, brood-rearing, migration stopover and wintering habitat for black ducks, pintails, green-winged teal, shovelers and other waterfowl species. American woodcock use the forested wetlands, emergent marshes and wet meadows during their breeding season and migration.

Green Bay – Marquette Coastal III

This project will expand an initiative to conserve 4,778 acres of critical wetland habitat in portions of the Lake Michigan Watershed of Wisconsin. The project area will target breeding and migratory stopover habitat. Restoration and protection of these habitats will directly benefit wetland and grassland bird species, including blue-winged teal, piping plovers, red knots, and grasshopper sparrows. Protection efforts will add over 650 acres to public lands, providing outdoor recreation (hiking, hunting, trapping, fishing, wildlife observation and canoeing/kayaking). DU’s work will improve surface and groundwater quality and mitigate flooding.

“An estimated 70% of historic wetlands have been lost in this area of Wisconsin,” said Tally Hamilton, DU Regional Biologist. “And yet nearly 50% of the coastal wetlands that remain on Lake Michigan occur on Green Bay’s West Shore. There is pressure to develop the land into subdivisions, commercial building space and to expand agricultural acres, so this is an important area to focus our conservation efforts.”

Northern Montezuma Wetland Complex V

This is part of a multi-year, landscape-level project to conserve up to 50,000 acres of wetlands and adjacent uplands within the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, one of the Atlantic Flyway's most important waterfowl staging areas. Montezuma encompasses a National Wildlife Refuge and State Wildlife Management Area totaling nearly 18,500-acres in public access; it is also New York's foremost Waterfowl Focus Area of the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture: Waterfowl Implementation Plan. Additionally, DU’s work will also look to enhance and protect critical coastal habitat at Lakeshore Marshes Wildlife Management Area (LMWMA), a complex made up of several large units adjacent to Lake Ontario totaling 6,179 acres. Montezuma and LMWMA provide valuable habitat for millions of migrating and wintering waterbirds, including waterfowl such as wood ducks, pintails and black ducks.

“This funding is monumental to NY in restoring riparian and upland buffers that are important for maintaining habitat and improving water quality, while also increasing waterfowl on the landscape through protection and restoration efforts for improved nesting and brood rearing opportunities, but just as important is we’re also providing increased public recreation opportunity and access through this grant source by working on nearly 80% public lands,” said DU Regional Biologist Mathew Wagner.