WASHINGTON – Wetlands conservation is passing a major milestone today. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) program has allocated more than $1 billion in federal grants. A slate of projects approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission today pushed the program over the cusp.
“This is a huge milestone for a program that has conserved more than 25.4 million acres of wetlands and waterfowl habitat across North America,” said Ducks Unlimited Senior Group Manager for Conservation and Communications Dr. Alan Wentz. Wentz sits on the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, which helps select projects funded by the program. “Ducks Unlimited is proud to be one of the thousands of partners that have contributed to the success of the program.”
In addition to the $1 billion in grants from the federal government, more than $2 billion in matching funds have been put into the more than 1,900 projects on the ground – more than double the federal government’s investment in the program. Each dollar allocated to a NAWCA project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must be matched by at least $1 from other sources – usually state governments, non-profit groups like Ducks Unlimited and other community groups.
“The effectiveness of the program is evident in the amount that groups have raised to match those grants from the Fish and Wildlife Service – more than two to one,” said Wentz. “NAWCA continues to be one of the best conservation success stories in history, and Ducks Unlimited looks forward to helping to put another billion dollars worth of habitat onto the ground.”
Support from Congress and from past and current Presidents for the program is also strong – 160 Members of Congress signed letters to the Appropriations Committees supporting funding for the program earlier this year. The letters were circulated by Migratory Bird Conservation Commission members Representatives John D. Dingell (Mich.) and Robert Wittman (Va.) and Senator Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) as well as Senator Mike Crapo (Idaho). The program has also had strong support from four presidential administrations – the latest coming from President Obama, who recommended a $10 million increase to the program in the FY10 budget request.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization and has conserved more than 12 million acres. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands ? nature’s most productive ecosystem ? and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres important to waterfowl each year.