Washington, D.C. It may have been the last thing the 107th
Congress did, but for North American waterfowl, late was better
than not at all.
At approximately 3 a.m. on Nov. 15, Congress reauthorized the
North American Wetland Conservation Act, approving increased
funding levels for wetland projects through 2007.
“It was, literally, the last bill (the House) did on Friday,”
said Scott Sutherland, of Ducks Unlimited’s governmental affairs
office in Washington.
In Minnesota, the federal Wetland Conservation Act has provided
about $1 million in federal dollars each year since the program
took effect in 1989. The NAWCA, first authorized in 1989, provides
matching grants to private or public organizations or to
individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands
The 2002 reauthorization changes the act, but just slightly. In
the past, law dictated 50 to 70 percent of NAWCA funding be spent
in Canada and Mexico, Sutherland said. This was done in order that
Congress members “look at priorities outside their own borders
first,” he said.
However, with the reauthorization, the amount spent outside the
United States changed to 30 to 70 percent. However, House members
who recommended the change said that, should appropriations remain
the same for the NAWCA, funding in Canada and Mexico should not dip
below their current levels. Sutherland said those countries don’t
send money to the U.S. for waterfowl conservation, but do have
programs of their own, within their borders.
Congress also increased what could be spent in accordance with
the NAWCA, Sutherland said. Prior to this year, the “cap” on NAWCA
funding has been $50 million. With reauthorization, the funding cap
for the program increases $5 million each fiscal year, for the next
five years. That means in 2007, the spending level for NAWCA may be
no higher than $75 million.
The actual amount that’s spent for the program has varied
greatly, according to Sutherland. The first year, spending was
about $15 million, but has been as low as just under $7 million.
This year, federal funding through the act is expected to be about
$43.5 million. Funding has been around $40 million the past few
Thus far, the NAWCA has helped fund more than 960 conservation
projects in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service says approximately 15.9 million acres of
wetland and associated uplands have been affected directly by NAWCA
funding and matching funds. The two types of grants programs have
included some 1,500 partner groups.
Tom Landwehr, state DU conservation director in Minnesota, said
his organization has worked with others in the state, including the
Minnesota DNR and Pheasants Forever, to obtain NAWCA funding. The
“lion’s share,” he said has gone to expanding the wildlife
management area program in the state.
Groups have collaborated to obtain federal funds. Grant requests
are limited to $1 million. And though partners must make grant
requests at a 1-to-1 ratio, Landwehr said the competitive nature of
the program make any additional funding from the partner group
Projects on Swan Lake and Heron Lake in Minnesota are just a
couple examples of NAWCA funding put to use in the state, Landwehr