WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that the federal government has now made more than $1 billion in grants under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989, helping to conserve or restore more than 25.4 million acres of wetlands and associated habitat across the continent over the past two decades.
The milestone was passed when the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission voted to approve $33.4 million in matching grants to conserve 190,000 acres of wetlands. Under the Act, the funds will be matched or exceeded by private contributions.
“Today we mark an historic milestone in for what is not only one of our nation's most effective conservation laws but also one of its most effective conservation partnerships,” Salazar, who serves as chair of the commission, said. “While the federal government has made more than $1 billion in grants, our partners have contributed more than $2 billion in matching funds to conserve, enhance, and restore vital wetlands that provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife.”
At its meeting, the commission also approved the expenditure of nearly $8 million in Federal Duck Stamp funds to add more than 4,000 wetland acres to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Wetlands provide many ecological, economic, and social benefits, including habitat for fish, wildlife, and a variety of plants. They serve as nurseries for many saltwater and freshwater fishes and shellfish of commercial and recreational importance. Wetlands also hold and slowly release flood waters, act as filters to cleanse water of impurities, and provide recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities for millions of people.
The commission includes Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Representatives John Dingell of Michigan and Robert Wittman of Virginia, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, as well as state representatives as ex officio members who vote on projects located within their respective states.
The $33.4 million in grants approved today will support 34 projects in 24 states under NAWCA's U.S. Standard Grants Program. Partners in these projects will contribute an additional $89.3 million in matching funds to support these conservation efforts.
Grants are funded by annual Congressional appropriations; fines, 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.
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 the NAWCA projects approved today is available on the Web at: http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/grants/NAWCA/index.shtm
The Commission also approved the purchase of wetlands that will be added to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System to secure breeding, resting, and feeding habitat. These acquisitions include:
These acquisitions are funded with the proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Federal Duck Stamp. The stamp features the winner of the annual Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. This year's Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest – the nation's only federally sponsored annual art competition – will be held October 16 and 17 at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Md., 25 miles north of Washington, D.C. The winning art will be made into the 2010-2011 Federal Duck Stamp, which sells for $15.
Additional information about the history on the ongoing efforts to conserve North America's wetlands and waterfowl can be found at Flyways.us. The website provides waterfowl enthusiasts, biologists and agency administrators with the most up-to-date waterfowl habitat and waterfowl population information.