Bird Commission Earmarks $29 M for Wetland Habitat

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved more than $29 million in federal funding for the protection and management of nearly 190,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats in the United States that will benefit ducks and waterfowl nationwide under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).

The commission, composed of members of Congress and federal cabinet secretaries, and chaired by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, also approved nearly $3 million to enhance wetland and waterfowl management in Mexico and more than $4.2 million for the purchase of 2,213 acres of wetlands for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

"The work of the commission continues to provide vital support for wetlands and waterfowl conservation across North America," said Kempthorne.

The more than $2.9 million approved for NAWCA's Mexico Grants Program will support 15 conservation projects in 11 Mexican states. Combined with almost $4 million in partner contributions, these projects will help to secure, enhance, and manage migratory bird habitat across Mexico, from Vera Cruz in the southeast to Baja California in the northwest.

The commission's approval of more than $29.6 million will support 31 projects in 21 states under NAWCA's U.S. Standard Grants Program. Partners in these projects will contribute an additional $119.6 million in funds. The grants are funded by annual congressional appropriations; fines, penalties, and forfeitures levied under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; interest accrued on funds under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, and excise taxes paid on small engine fuels through the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

The commission's approval of refuge acquisitions secured resting and feeding habitat that will be added to four National Wildlife Refuges in five states. It also approved the acquisition of a permanent easement for the Grasslands Wildlife Management Area in California. The fund receives revenue from Duck Stamp sales, import duties on firearms and ammunition, and rights-of-way payments to the refuge system.

Projects securing additional wetlands include:

• Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Cape May County, N.J. -- Acquisition of 280 acres will provide habitat for wintering and migrating waterfowl species, particularly the American black duck.

• Grasslands Wildlife Management Area, Merced County, Calif. -- Acquisition of three permanent conservation easements covering 1,035 acres will provide wintering habitat for numerous waterfowl species, including the northern pintail, green-winged teal, northern shoveler, and mallard.

• San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Brazoria County, Texas -- Acquisition of 142 acres will provide valuable habitat for wintering and migrating waterfowl species, including the mallard, gadwall, northern pintail, mottled duck, and American widgeon.

• Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge, Currituck County, N.C. and Virginia Beach, Va. -- Acquisition of 26 acres will provide high-quality habitat for wintering waterfowl species, including the American black duck, mallard, northern pintail, green winged teal, lesser and greater scaup, and hooded merganser.

• Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron Parish, La. -- A lease covering 640 acres will provide habitat for wintering waterfowl species, including the mallard, northern pintail, American widgeon, gadwall, northern shoveler, Canada goose, and white-fronted goose.

The commission meets three times a year and includes Sens. Thad Cochran and Blanche Lincoln, Rep. John Dingell, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

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