Secretary Bernhardt Announces $160 Million in Funding for Wetland Conservation Projects and National Wildlife Refuges

Last edited 05/28/2020

Date: Thursday, May 28, 2020

WASHINGTON - As we celebrate American Wetlands Month, hundreds of bird species will benefit from $160 million in funding for various wetland conservation projects in North America. The funding was approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which is chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Of the approved funds, the Commission allocated $22.1 million under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to conserve or restore more than 160,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds for 22 projects in 15 U.S. states. Partners will match these grants with an additional $50 million.

“These dollars are from our great conservationists – the hunters and anglers who purchase migratory bird stamps,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “These efforts support local economies and wildlife in numerous ways. As the country continues to reopen, access to outdoor spaces is more important than ever, and we are doing our part to maintain public access and conserve natural habitats.”

“Wetlands are special places with an exceptional role to play in both the economy and conservation of our magnificent wildlife,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “Through these grants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is uniquely placed to not only positively impact wetland conservation, but also further President Trump’s goal to improve access to public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.”

Wetlands provide many economic, ecological, and social benefits. NAWCA grants conserve bird populations and wetland habitat while supporting local economies and American traditions such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching, family farming, and cattle ranching. Some of this year’s projects include:

  • Florida: Gulf Coast Watersheds Conservation - $1 million to restore and acquire 6,671 acres of wetlands and hardwood forest in Florida’s Gulf Coast area. These watersheds are critical in supporting a variety of migratory bird species.
  • Iowa: South Skunk and Des Moines River Migratory Corridor - $1 million to protect and enhance 2,577 acres of wetlands and associated uplands in Iowa. This habitat will benefit priority species including Northern pintail, mallard, lesser scaup, greater scaup and American black duck.
  • North Carolina: Embayed Rivers Initiative III - $1 million to protect, restore and enhance 3,322 acres of wetland habitat on the central and northeastern coast of North Carolina within the Embayed Rivers area.
  • Maine: Conserving Maine’s Coast & Headwaters - $1 million to acquire 16,311 acres around the Gulf of Maine. The area provides habitat for over 100 bird species, including American black duck.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota River Prairies III - $1 million to protect, restore and enhance of 2,012 acres of prairie wetlands and associated uplands in the Minnesota River Basin, an important part of the Prairie Pothole Region in Minnesota.
  • South Dakota: James River Lowlands Prairie Coteau, South Dakota - $1 million to conserve 3,657 acres of wetlands and grasslands in the prairie potholes region. Waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds and more will benefit.

“Conservation of our nation’s wetlands is critical to the preservation and healthy management of waterfowl and other wildlife populations. These investments will allow us to better protect and improve critical habitats and ensure future generations of outdoor enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the same opportunities they do today,” said U.S. Senator John Boozman (AR).

“As a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, I am proud to help approve NAWCA grants, and I have been impressed by the program’s demonstrated success in leveraging partnerships to restore essential habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. I am also pleased to see more important acquisitions supported by the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund for our National Wildlife Refuge System. The conservation work done by both of these programs is essential for supporting our thriving outdoor recreation economy and sustaining traditions like hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing in our public lands and waters for future generations.” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (NM).

“It’s my great honor to serve on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission and to help support the incredible programs that conserve our nation’s natural resources and promote sportsmen’s activities. This work is vital to ensuring our public lands can be enjoyed for generations to come and I look forward to supporting these programs years into the future,” said Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-05).

“Even during the COVID-19 pandemic,the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has continued to do critical work to protect wildlife and critical habitat. We must continue to reduce wetlands disappearance and conserve migratory bird habitat; protecting, restoring, and managing wetland habitats is important, and it is critical that we invest efficiently to conserve these areas for the use and enjoyment of future generations,” said Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01).

Many birds found in the United States spend part of their time in other countries, and NAWCA provides grants to Canada and Mexico to ensure waterfowl and other birds are protected throughout their life cycles. The Commission approved $40.5 million for 19 projects in those countries.

A complete list of the approved U.S., Canada and Mexico NAWCA projects is available online.

NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. Since 1989, funding has advanced the conservation of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico, while engaging more than 6,300 partners in over 3,000 projects.Through NAWCA, federal funds are typically leveraged at twice the legally required dollar for dollar non-federal match-to-grant ratio. Partners in NAWCA projects include private landowners, states, local governments, conservation organizations, national and local sportsmen’s groups, tribes, trusts, and corporations. More information about the grant projects is available on the Service’s website.

The Commission also approved more than $47.1 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 21,259 acres for six national wildlife refuges, which will be added to public use and hunt programs. These funds were derived from the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps,” and import duties on imported arms and ammunition. While Duck Stamps are required for waterfowl hunters as an annual license, anyone can contribute to conservation by buying them. A current Federal Duck Stamp is also a pass into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee.

These funds will be used to purchase or lease waterfowl habitat at the following national wildlife refuges:

  • New Jersey: Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, $1,907,936 for 2,385 acres
  • Arkansas: Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge, $18,409,582 for 9,276 acres
  • Texas: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, $6,500,000 for 3,361 acres
  • Texas: San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, $13,570,000 for 4,679 acres
  • Washington: Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, $1,771,000 for 786 acres
  • South Carolina: Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, $5,000,000 for 772 acres

Since 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp Program and Migratory Bird Conservation Fund have provided more than $1.1 billion for habitat conservation in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“When it comes to funding wetland and habitat restoration projects, NAWCA and the Duck Stamp are unmatched in their effectiveness,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. “With the responsibility of allocating funds for both programs, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission makes the great work DU and our partners are able to accomplish on the ground possible. We thank them for ensuring duck hunters’ dollars are allocated wisely and for enabling us to be the best possible stewards of our nation’s waterfowl habitat.”

“NAWCA continues to be a great tool to conserve priority wetland and waterfowl habitat,” said Senior Vice President at Delta Waterfowl John Devney. “From conserving priority habitat on the breeding grounds in partnership with farmers and ranchers to providing high quality hunting opportunities on the wintering grounds, NAWCA funds continue to be an important ingredient to the needs of both ducks and duck hunters.”

“NAWCA grants have provided critical funding for wetland projects, and with associated upland habitat improvements, that sustain pheasants, quail and other wildlife in many states throughout America while supporting our outdoor recreation economy,” said President and CEO of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever Howard Vincent. “Our organization is proud to partner with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a delivery mechanism for new public access opportunities and quality habitat for sportsmen, sportswomen, and the wildlife we cherish.”


The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. Refuges offer world-class public recreation, from fishing, hunting and wildlife observation to photography and environmental education. More than 59 million people visit refuges every year, creating economic booms for local communities.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission is chaired by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Its members include Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue; Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler; U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas; U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico; and Representatives Robert J. Wittman of Virginia and Mike Thompson of California. The Commission has helped in conserving much of this nation’s most important waterfowl habitat and in establishing or enhancing many of the country’s most popular destinations for waterfowl hunting.

Additional information about North American wetlands and waterfowl conservation can be found online, which offers waterfowl enthusiasts, biologists and agency managers with the most up-to-date waterfowl habitat and population information.


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