The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the approval of more than $25 million in federal grants and Federal Duck Stamp revenues to protect, restore or enhance thousands of acres of wildlife habitat in the United States and Mexico for the benefit of shared migratory bird populations.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission voted to approve the use of Migratory Bird Conservation Fund monies and North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants to acquire and enhance this habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, landbirds, marsh birds and other wetland-dependent species.
"Wetlands are some of the most biologically rich habitats in our country, providing nesting and foraging ground for migratory species," Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said. "They are also facing some of the greatest threats including habitat degradation, land conversion and sea-level rise."
Thanks to hunters, conservationists and other wildlife enthusiasts, more than $6 million will be used to protect 2,200 acres of wildlife habitat that will be added to units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in California, South Carolina and Texas.
For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents goes directly to purchase or lease vital habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Of particular note is the commission's easement approval at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge in California. The addition of 367 acres in perpetual conservation easements has almost completed the current refuge boundary. Other acquisitions approved are:
- 264 fee acres of bottomland hardwood forested wetlands and associated waterfowl habitat at San Bernard NWR in Brazoria County, Texas, for $488,800.
- 230 fee acres of quality waterfowl habitat in the river floodplain at Trinity River NWR in Liberty County, Texas, for $257,400.
- 1,362 fee acres, containing bottomland hardwood forests and a variety of other wetland types, at Waccamaw NWR in Georgetown County, South Carolina, for $2,044,000.
An additional $19.5 million awarded through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act will protect, restore or enhance more than 170,000 acres of habitat for migratory birds in the United States and Mexico, leveraging $57 million in matching funds. Eighteen projects in 15 United States and seven projects in Mexico will receive North American Wetlands Conservation Act funding.
Grantee Pheasants Forever, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary, will receive $1 million to acquire and restore high priority grassland and prairie pothole habitat in degraded areas of southwest Minnesota, benefiting both waterfowl and grassland birds. Other grants include:
- $1 million to Ducks Unlimited to protect wetland and grassland communities for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife in the Prairie Pothole Region.
- $1 million to Wyoming Game and Fish Department to permanently protect and restore large tracts of wetland, riparian and sagebrush-steppe habitat in the Upper Green River basin.
- $999,504 to the Foundation for Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to prevent further habitat degradation in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, which supports millions of migratory birds, including priority waterfowl species.
More information about the U.S. Standard projects approved is available at http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NAWCA/Standard/US/2013_March.shtm
Ashe lauded the commission's approval of the land purchases and conservation grants: "Protection of wetlands ensures that hunters, anglers and wildlife-watchers and photographers can continue to enjoy these precious resources," he said. "Wildlife recreationists make up nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population and contribute more than $100 billion to our economy."
The 2013-14 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, also known as the Federal Duck Stamp, will go on sale June 28. Since 1934, sales of Federal Duck Stamps have raised more than $800 million to acquire 6 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. Through the Act's U.S. Standard grants program, 3,300 partners have been involved in 910 projects affecting more than 7 million acres of habitat.