The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission today approved $58 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to purchase, lease or otherwise conserve more than 200,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across North America.
“Wetlands provide vital habitat for wildlife, purify groundwater and protect communities from storms,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean. “With so many millions of acres of wetlands lost over the years, it is impossible to overstate the importance of North American Wetlands Conservation Act and Duck Stamp funding in setting aside and conserving them. We all benefit from healthier ecosystems and more abundant fish and wildlife.”
Of the total funds approved by the commission, $25 million will be provided through North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants to conserve more than 85,000 acres of wetlands and adjoining areas in 16 states. NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. To date, funds have advanced conservation of nearly 8 million acres of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 states, engaging more than 3,300 partners in nearly 1,000 projects. NAWCA grants are funded through federal appropriations, as well as fines, penalties and forfeitures collected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; from federal fuel excise taxes on small gasoline engines, as directed by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act; and from interest accrued on Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act funds.
Examples of projects include:
Texas Gulf Coast: This project will restore and enhance an additional 2,800 acres of wetland habitat on private and public lands, providing important migration, wintering and breeding habitat for more than 304 bird species.
North Dakota Great Plains: This project is phase eight of a multi-year effort to establish, enhance and protect valuable wetland and associated upland habitat. This phase will conserve more than 13,000 acres of habitat for northern pintail, long-billed curlew, mallard and many other species.
Virginia/North Carolina: The ACC Wetlands Conservation Initiative will conserve 2,745 acres of diverse habitat, including bottomland cypress-gum swamp, emergent wetlands and pine forest. Habitat for 10 priority or high priority waterfowl species will be protected, including canvasback, black duck and greater scaup.
Grants made through this program require matching investments; the projects approved today will leverage an additional $58 million in non-federal matching funds. More information about these grant projects is available here.
Many bird species spend parts of their life cycles outside the United States, meaning effective conservation must address the needs of these species beyond our national boundaries. This is why projects funded through NAWCA occur throughout North America, to ensure a comprehensive approach to the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. This year, the commission approved a total of $21.6 million for 12 projects in Canada and $2.7 million for 12 projects in Mexico.
The commission also approved expenditures of $8.8 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 16,044 acres for nine national wildlife refuges, through fee-title land acquisitions and lease renewals. These funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.” For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents go directly to acquire or lease habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Duck Stamp program has been in place since 1934 and has raised more than $800 million to acquire more than 6 million acres for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 2015-2016 Duck Stamp will go on sale June 26.
The commission-approved refuge projects are:
Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) — Cross, Jackson, Monroe, Poinsett, Prairie and Woodruff counties, Arkansas. Boundary approval to add 102,000 acres and price approval to acquire a 909-acre tract for $2,000,000.
Cat Island NWR — West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. Price approval to acquire a 383-acre tract for $726,800.
Felsenthal NWR and Upper Ouachita NWR — Ashley, Bradley and Union counties, Arkansas, and Union and Morehouse parishes, Louisiana. Boundary approval for the previously established Felsenthal NWR acquisition boundary of 96,561 acres and price approval to acquire a 2,244-acre property for $3,000,037. The property spans state lines and includes 1,383 acres in Arkansas (Felsenthal NWR) and 861 acres in Louisiana (Upper Ouachita NWR).
Laguna Atascosa NWR — Cameron and Willacy counties, Texas. Boundary addition and price approval to acquire approximately 1,778 acres for $1,000,000.
Mackay Island NWR — Currituck County, North Carolina. Boundary approval to add 1,358 acres and price approval to acquire a 288-acre tract for $944,900.
San Bernard NWR — Fort Bend County, Texas. Boundary addition and price approval to acquire approximately 360 acres for $1,080,480.
Red Rock Lakes NWR — Beaverhead County, Montana. Price re-approval to renew five 10-year leases on 9,580 acres of state school section lands, for the annual lease fee of $53,562. The commission also approved an escalation clause to permit price increases of no more than 5 percent per year, for the duration of each lease, to accommodate annual variations in rental costs dictated by Montana law.
St. Catherine Creek NWR — Adams County, Mississippi. Price re-approval to renew a five-year lease on 502 acres of state school section lands, for the annual lease fee of $19,600.
The commission also welcomed new members: Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM) is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, an avid sportsman, and a member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus. He was appointed to the commission in January. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA) was appointed to the commission in March, replacing Rep. John Dingell (MI), who served on the commission from 1969 until his retirement in 2014. Thompson was a co-author of NAWCA and was recently inducted into the California Waterfowler Hall of Fame.