The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved funding that will conserve more than 6,200 acres of habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife on seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today.
The acquisitions will be funded by more than $6 million in proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Federal Duck Stamp.
"Wetlands are vital landscapes for our nation's birds and other wildlife who rest, feed and breed there throughout the year," said Salazar, chairman of the bird commission and host of today's meeting at the Department of the Interior. "Thanks to the contributions of hunters and others who purchase Duck Stamps, we are strengthening our National Wildlife Refuge System and helping to keep important habitat "open for business' for our nation's wildlife."
The commission also approved more than $24.5 million in federal grants under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act for partnership-based conservation projects that will protect, restore and enhance more than 146,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats across the United States and Mexico.
Today the Commission approved the following National Wildlife Refuge acquisitions:
* Blackwater NWR in Dorchester County, Md: 112 acres in fee for $505,000;
* Chickasaw NWR in Ripley in Lauderdale County, Tenn: 357 acres of mature bottomland hardwood habitat in fee for $616,000;
* Cache River NWR in Jackson, Prairie, Woodruff and Monroe counties, Ark.: 165 acres in fee for $420,100;
* Grasslands Wildlife Management Area in Merced County, Calif.: 275 acres in easement for $570,000;
* Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area in Kern and Tulare counties, Calif.: 508 acres in easement for $971,233;
* Umbagog NWR in Coos County, N.H.: 4,532 acres in fee for $3.6 million; and
* Dahomey NWR in Bolivar County, Miss.: 260 acres for lease renewal for a price of $10,790.
The commission also expressed support for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) plan, that future land protection efforts be focused on vital habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region, which serves as the breeding ground for millions of waterfowl and other migratory birds. This initiative was announced as part of the White House Conference on Conservation on March 2, 2012.
Under the initiative, FWS, Ducks Unlimited and other partners will work with the commission to expend more than 70 percent--approximately $30 million--of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to help secure the future for waterfowl and grassland species on the prairies.
Additional funding available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund will further bolster the effort to conserve the prairies. FWS has recommended LWCF investments of an additional $3.5 million in the president's 2013 budget to support this strategy.
"The Prairie Pothole Region is vital to waterfowl and other migratory birds in North America. At the same time, it is home to thousands of people who have stewarded and worked the land for generations," said FWS Director Dan Ashe. "This effort will help us work with willing landowners to put conservation easements in place on tens of thousands of additional acres, helping to stem the loss of these breeding grounds."
For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, ninety-eight cents goes directly to purchase vital habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission oversees the use of Federal Duck Stamp funds for the purchase and lease of these wetland habitats for national wildlife refuges. To date, commission action has protected some 5.5 million acres of wetlands using more than $1.1 billion in Duck Stamp revenues.
For more information about the commission, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/realty/mbcc.html.
In addition to the seven refuge additions listed above, the commission also approved funding for wetlands conservation grants under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).
The grants will support 23 projects in 16 states under NAWCA's U.S. Standard Grants Program. Partners in these projects will contribute an additional $50 million in matching funds, affecting more than 90,000 acres.
Grants are funded by annual Congressional appropriations; penalties and forfeitures levied under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; interest accrued on funds under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act; and excise taxes paid on small engine fuels through the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Fund.
The commission also approved more than $2.8 million in NAWCA grants for nine projects in Mexico. These grants will be matched by $9 million in partner contributions and will directly affect more than 56,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats in 20 Mexican states. In addition to habitat acquisition, restoration, enhancement and management activities, NAWCA projects in Mexico may also involve technical training, education, sustainable-use studies, or organizational infrastructure building to develop or strengthen wetlands conservation and management capabilities.
Projects funded today with NAWCA grants include:
Sonoran Wetlands Restoration II, Arizona and California
Grantee: Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
The project area is located in one of the most arid parts of the continent, yet contains the most important and threatened wetlands remaining in this region. The core of the project work will be the restoration and enhancement of wetlands and associated habitats adjacent to the Salton Sea to protect a diverse array of habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, waterbirds and other wetland-dependent wildlife.
Kennebec River Estuary, Phase IV, Maine
Grantee: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
The purpose of this project is to protect lands for permanent conservation within the Merrymeeting Bay/Lower Kennebec River drainage in Maine, expanding protection at key sites where ongoing conservation efforts have yielded significant results. The waters and salt marshes of the Lower Kennebec provide valuable wintering habitat for waterfowl.
Southern Tip Ecological Project IV, Virginia
Grantee: The Nature Conservancy
Representing the fourth step in a legacy of cooperative efforts to conserve migratory bird habitat in the Southern Tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, STEP-4 focuses on protecting habitat on and near the shorelines of the Chesapeake Bay and its coastal islands through fee acquisition of Savage Island, a key island that essentially "fills the donut" of protected properties around the Beasley Bay area. Partners will also protect a conservation easement donation on Shepherd's Plain Farm on Nandua Creek, a bay tributary.
Waterfowl Reserve Network in Northwest Chihuahua, III, Chihuahua, Mexico
Grantee: Pronatura Noreste, A.C.
More than 200 species of birds have been registered in this area in the Chihuahuan Desert, 45 percent of which are migratory. The region hosts 3 to 5 percent of the wintering waterfowl in Mexico and it has the country's highest concentrations of geese and cranes. Flocks of up to 5,000 sandhill cranes have also been recorded. This project will protect 24,700 acres through conservation easements and restore 741 wetland acres.
Passed in 1989, NAWCA provides matching grants to organizations and individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Act was passed in part to support activities under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international agreement that provides a strategy for the long-term protection of wetlands and associated upland habitats needed by waterfowl and other migratory birds in North America.
More information about NAWCA grant programs and projects approved today is available on the Web at: http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NAWCA/Standard/index.shtm.