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New funds to protect wetlands and migratory birds approved



by Joseph Earnest  March 28, 2014


Newscast Media WASHINGTONThe Migratory Bird Conservation Commission March 26 approved $61.3 million in funding to protect, restore and enhance almost 83,000 hectares of wetlands and associated uplands in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"Conservation of our nation's wetlands is critical to protecting our wildlife, watersheds, coastal communities and important economic activities," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, chair of the commission. "Wetlands not only are home to hundreds of species of migratory birds, but they also provide us with clean water, act as buffers against storms, support our vibrant coastal fishing industries, and provide unique opportunities for outdoor recreation."

The commission approved $54.7 million in grants through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to protect, restore and enhance almost 81,000 hectares of habitat for migratory birds in the United States, Mexico and Canada, leveraging an additional $92.6 million in matching funds.

The commission also approved nearly $6.6 million for fee and easement land acquisitions of 2,052 hectares on five national wildlife refuges. The funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as "Duck Stamps."

"These grants are critical to maintaining the health and vitality of America's wetlands and the abundance and variety of wildlife they support," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "Wetlands are particularly crucial to migratory birds all along their flyways. These grants will enable our partners in Canada, Mexico and the United States to protect and improve the quality of these habitats."

The five commission-approved refuge projects are:

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Chambers County, Texas. Boundary addition and price approval for a high-priority 496 hectares tract for $1,718,200.

San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Brazoria County, Texas. Boundary addition and price approval for 12 hectares for $138,500.

Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Liberty County, Texas. Boundary addition and price approval for 94.7 hectares for $162,399.

Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area, Kern and Tulare counties, California. Acquisition of 123 hectares in easement for $782,000.

Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, Union and Morehouse parishes, Louisiana. Boundary addition of 7,772 hectares and acquisition of 1,325 hectares for $3,830,013.

Additionally, the commission approved the potential future boundary expansion that would add 6,246 hectares to that refuge’s acquisition boundary. Examples of projects funded through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act include:

In North Dakota, the Chase Lake Area Wetland project will restore and enhance 17,719 hectares to improve habitat for migratory waterfowl. Through this project, partners will protect wetland-associated uplands to provide essential nesting habitat for waterfowl and other species, and minimize the influx of sediments and pesticides into these wetland basins.

In Hawaii, the Upper Laupahoehoe Nui Watershed Reserve project will enhance 809 hectares acres of wetlands for endangered seabird populations by removing invasive plants to promote the growth and establishment of native plant communities.

In the Canadian Prairie/Parkland and Western Boreal Forest, which support 72 percent of North America’s breeding ducks, Ducks Unlimited Canada will protect 4,014 hectares through land purchases and enhance an additional 1,391 hectares by building wetlands infrastructure and converting vegetative cover.

In Tamaulipas, Mexico, the Enhancement of Wetland Habitat for Migratory Waterfowl on the Coastal Plain project will establish a hydraulic system to restore 651 hectares of freshwater wetlands and work with landowners to protect these restored acres through conservation agreements.

For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents go directly to acquire vital habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The commission oversees the use of Federal Duck Stamp funds for the purchase and lease of wetland habitats for national wildlife refuges. To date, close to 2.5 million hectares of wetlands have been purchased using more than $800 million in Duck Stamp revenue.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is the only U.S. federal grants program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. Since 1990, approximately 5,000 partners in more than 2,000 projects have received more than $1.2 billion in grants. The grants have leveraged another $2.6 billion in matching funds to help improve approximately 11 million hectares of habitat. 

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