Category Archives: waterfowl conservation

Delta Waterfowl press release: Funding for breeding grounds to increase

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Delta Praises Decision to Increase Funding to Breeding Grounds

Bismarck, N.D.–Delta Waterfowl applauds the recent decision by the
Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) to increase the
percentage of duck stamp dollars going to the prairie breeding
grounds for habitat conservation in 2012.

The commission’s decision calls for an increase of the Migratory Bird
Conservation Fund (MBCF) dollars for the prairie pothole states
(Region 6 and Region 3). The majority of increased funding will be
used for taking perpetual voluntary wetland and grassland easements,
particularly in North Dakota and South Dakota, which attract the vast
majority of ducks nesting annually in the United States.

“This is a historic decision, spearheaded by director Dan Ashe of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and he deserves enormous praise for
his vision and leadership on this issue,” said John Devney, director
of U.S policy for Delta Waterfowl, which for years has publically
supported increased funding to the prairie breeding grounds. “In an
era of tight budgets and scare resources, director Ashe followed the
science and made the best decision for the future of ducks and duck
hunters everywhere. We applaud this move wholeheartedly.”

Long recognized as North America’s “duck factory”, the grasslands of
the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) produce roughly 50 percent of the
continent’s ducks on an average year and up to 70 percent when water
and grass are abundant, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS).

The commission’s decision will reallocate upwards of 70 percent
(nearly $30 million) of the MBCF to breeding grounds, with roughly
$20 million going to North Dakota and South Dakota. In 2011, the PPR
states received $17 million. The MBCF receives revenues from federal
duck stamp sales, important duties on guns and ammunition, among
several other sources.

Devney says increasing funding for waterfowl conservation on the
prairie breeding grounds is critical to the long-term future of duck
hunting.

“The duck factory is in trouble,” said Devney. “The wetland and
grassland resources here are at greater risk than they have been in
decades. Every region in the country has pressing needs, but these
are duck stamp dollars, and right now the greatest need for ducks is
on the breeding grounds.”

Devney says roughly 6.2 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program
(CRP) contracts will expire in September nationwide, and few expect
those acres to be renewed, thanks in large part to high commodity
prices, high land values and higher cash rents.

“CRP habitat, particularly in the Dakotas and parts of Montana, has
been a boon for prairie-nesting ducks, but those acres are
disappearing more and more every year, which makes the funding
reallocation to the breeding grounds all the more important,” said
Devney.

North Dakota currently has 2.5 million CRP acres (down from more than
3 million), but contracts on roughly 800,000 acres will expire in
September. In South Dakota, contracts on 200,000 acres will expire
this year as well, dropping its total CRP allotment to 900,000 acres.

“When you factor in all the native prairie we’re also losing in the
Dakotas each year, the amount of grassland habitat loss in the duck
factory is staggering,” said Devney, noting an estimated 50,000 acres
of native prairie in South Dakota is broken each year for
agricultural production. “The rich wetland base of the Dakotas is
also at risk. There’s a burgeoning interest in tiling and draining as
producers look for increased tillable acreage and higher yields.”

The good news is that demand for landowner easements across the PPR
remains high, including “the best of the best duck habitat” in the
Dakotas the USFWS is targeting.

Said one USFWS official, “We still have a sizeable waiting list of
willing landowners. I hope demand stays high. I believe it will. But
there’s no getting around the fact there are a lot of economic forces
working against duck conservation on the breeding grounds.”

Delta Waterfowl Scientific Director Dr. Frank Rohwer, who is also a
professor at Louisiana State University’s School of Renewable Natural
Resources, says increased investments on the prairies are important
to waterfowlers across the U.S.

“The science is clear,” said Dr. Rohwer, who regularly hunts
Louisiana’s coastal marshes. “The greatest biological need for
habitat conservation is on the breeding grounds. If we don’t protect
key habitats on the prairies, our ability to raise ducks for hunters
everywhere will be greatly diminished.”

Devney says Delta Waterfowl supports increased funding to the
breeding grounds beyond 2012. He says that effort could be bolstered
by increasing the price of the federal duck stamp. The stamp,
required by all hunters who hunt migratory birds, has cost $15 for
the past two decades–the longest period without an increase since
the stamp’s inception in 1934.

President Obama’s latest budget proposal would increase the price to
$25 in 2013, the same proposal made by former President George W.
Bush in 2008, and which Congress declined.

“Inflation has greatly diminished the purchasing power since the last
duck stamp increase in 1991,” said Devney. “An increase would greatly
improve our efforts to preserve critical duck-nesting habitat for
years to come. Delta Waterfowl supports the increase because it’s the
best investment in habitat conservation available for ducks and duck
hunters alike.”


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