WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced on Wednesday that the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved the investment of nearly $11 million in revenue from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to add an estimated 10,640 wetland acres to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The commission also approved $18.4 million in federal grant funding to conserve more than 95,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitat in the United States under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).
“With these key investments, we are strengthening our wetlands protection though the National Wildlife Refuge System and in other key waterfowl and wildlife habitat throughout North America,” said Salazar, who chairs the commission. “Thanks to the contributions of hunters, stamp collectors, and others who purchase Duck Stamps, our National Wildlife Refuge System continues to provide vital habitat for wildlife as well as pristine places for outdoor recreation for tens of millions of people.”
“Besides providing recreational benefits to the public, our nation’s wetlands provide vital storm protection for coastal areas, hold and slowly release flood waters, and act as filters to cleanse water of impurities,” said Ashe. “Wetlands are vital landscapes for our nation’s birds and other wildlife who rest, feed and breed there throughout the year.”
Of particular note is the commission’s boundary and tract approval at the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. By approving the addition of 12,352 acres of the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the commission is protecting one of the highest densities of breeding lesser scaup in North America and the highest density of breeding trumpeter swans in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
The purchase and lease of wetland habitat parcels are funded in part with proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Federal Duck Stamp.
Details on the purchases/leases are as follows:
-- Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana - Boundary addition of 12,352 acres, including 810 fee acres at $3,604,500 and 5,834 lease acres at $11,085. The refuge encompasses the largest wetland complex in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The proposed acquisition will protect wetlands, provide important breeding habitat for 21 species of waterfowl, and secure important water rights.
-- San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Texas - Boundary addition and price approval for 1,441 fee acres for $2,589,700. The proposed area is part of a rich and productive wetland complex providing wintering, migration, and resident habitat for waterfowl. Thousands of waterfowl winter in the area, including mottled ducks, mallards, northern pintails, gadwalls, widgeons, northern shovelers, blue- and green-winged teal, black-bellied whistling ducks, and ruddy ducks.
-- Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Texas - Boundary addition and price approval for 200 fee acres; $176,200. The refuge protects important remnant bottomland hardwood and associated habitats for migrating, wintering, and breeding waterfowl, and has been identified as a priority project for the East Texas Bottomland Hardwood Initiative, a component of the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The proposed addition lies in the 100-year floodplain of the Trinity River and contains biologically significant bottomland hardwoods.
-- Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, New York - 625.39 fee acres; $2,377,000. The flat floor of this basin, composed of deep, rich, muck soils, presents a unique opportunity to acquire lands that can easily be restored to large shallow pools for waterfowl. Restoration of this tract could increase the refuge’s capacity to support an additional 9,000 migratory waterfowl in the spring and more than 18,000 in the fall.
-- Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon - 23.59 fee acres; $82,500. The Wapato Lake Unit protects and conserves imperiled northern Willamette Valley habitats that support large populations of wintering waterfowl, including tundra swans, mallards, northern pintails, canvasbacks, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaup, and cackling and dusky Canada geese.
-- Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area, California - 164 easement acres for $309,000 and Blanket Price Approval for 18,581 easement acres up to $3,000 per acre. The WMA supports the last remnant of wetlands and wildlife habitat left in a dramatically altered Tulare Lake watershed. The wetlands are an important winter foraging and nesting habitat for many waterfowl species, including mallard, northern pintail, gadwall, cinnamon teal, and northern shoveler. Tulare Basin wetlands have hosted wintering waterfowl concentrations in excess of 100,000.
-- Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina - 1,542.83 fee acres; $1,850,000. The tidal freshwater wetlands are some of the most diverse freshwater wetland systems found in North America and offer many important habitats for migratory birds, fish, and resident wildlife. The tract consists of alluvial bottomland hardwoods and a network of oxbow lakes, ephemeral creeks, and tidal lakes and sloughs.
Grants approved at Wednesday’s commission meeting were funded through the NAWCA Standard Grants Program and will support 19 projects in 14 states. Partners will contribute an additional $49.4 million in matching non-federal dollars toward these projects. The projects include:
California: Butte and Colusa Basins Wetland IV Grantee: Ducks Unlimited, Inc. -- Partners will restore and enhance wetlands and uplands that support millions of waterfowl, shorebirds and other migratory bird species, including northern pintail, mallard, white-fronted goose, American avocet and white-faced ibis.
South Carolina: Santee Delta and Winyah Bay Protection Project: Phase II Grantee: The Nature Conservancy -- Partners will protect wetlands and associated uplands to benefit breeding, migrating and wintering birds such as mallards and wood thrush.
Iowa: Prairie Lakes 6 Wetland Initiative Grantee: Iowa Department of Natural Resources -- Partners will restore wetland and grassland complexes and improve management of large prairie marshes to benefit migrating birds and also provide better nesting and brood-rearing habitats for the birds that breed in the area, such as lesser scaup.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission includes Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Reps. 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.
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.
More information about the approved NAWCA grant projects is available at: www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NAWCA/index.shtm