Wetlands, uplands to receive big upgrades
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission last week approved $61.3 million in funding to protect, restore and enhance more than 205,000 acres of wetlands and associated uplands in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“Conservation of our nation’s wetlands is critical to protecting our wildlife, watersheds, coastal communities and important economic activities,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, chairwoman of the commission. “Wetlands not only are home to hundreds of species of migratory birds, but they also provide us with clean water, act as buffers against storms, support our vibrant coastal fishing industries and provide unique opportunities for outdoor recreation.”
Grants through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act totaling $54.7 million, along with an additional $92.6 million in leveraged matching funds, will “protect, restore and enhance” 200,069 acres of habitat in national wildlife refuges for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Every federal dollar provided by wetlands conservation act must be matched by at least one dollar from nonfederal sources.
The program historically leverages, on average, $3.20 from private sources for every federal dollar.
“These grants are critical to maintaining the health and vitality of America’s wetlands and the abundance and variety of wildlife they support,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said. “Wetlands are particularly crucial to migratory birds all along their flyways. These grants will enable our partners in Canada, Mexico and the United States to protect and improve the quality of these habitats.”
The commission also approved nearly $6.6 million for fee and easement land acquisitions of 5,072 acres on five national wildlife refuges. The funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.”
“It is the perfect example of a smart federal grant program because it leverages private funds to match federal dollars,” said Dale Hall, CEO of the conservation group Ducks Unlimited.
According to a Southwick Associates study, outdoor recreation, natural resource conservation and historic preservation provide a minimum $1.7 trillion in economic impact in the United States.
Additionally, the industries provide more than $200 million in federal, state and local tax revenue, and support 12.8 million jobs.