Wetlands program gets more funding

By Tim
Spielman

Associate Editor

Washington — A federal program that supplies matching grant
dollars for projects that benefit wetlands and associated uplands
received a boost recently when Congress approved an increase in
funding of about $2 million for next year.

The increase in North American Wetlands Conservation Act funding
raises to $40 million the appropriation. Other sources typically
double the amount that’s available for projects across North
America, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, said Barb
Pardo, “Joint Ventures” coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Region 3.

“This notable increase is directly attributed to the strong
support for funding within Congress, and the on-the-ground success
of NAWCA during the past 15 years,” Ducks Unlimited’s Scott
Sutherland said in a news release from the group.

According to the USFWS, two types of grants are available under
NAWCA. A “standard” grant proposal is a four-year plan of action
that requests between $50,001 and $1 million. A “small” grant
proposal is for those up to $50,000. Partner matches in both cases
must be at least equal to the federal dollar request; in most
cases, the partner share is much more than that.

According to DU, “since NAWCA was enacted in 1989, more than
2,000 partners have leveraged NAWCA dollars to conserve more than
20 million acres of wetlands and waterfowl habitat in North
America.”

Joint ventures – partnerships called upon to carry out goals of
the North American Waterfowl Management Plan – are a priority of
NAWCA grants. Ray Norrgard, wetland wildlife program leader for the
Minnesota DNR, said the state is part of two joint ventures – the
Prairie Pothole Joint Venture and the Upper Mississippi and Great
Lakes Joint Venture. That’s put the state in a good position to
apply for and receive grants.

“Over the years, Minnesota has been relatively successful (in
receiving NAWCA grants),” Norrgard said. “We’re gearing up to be
successful in the future.”

Norrgard said since the program was created in 1989, the state
has received about $20 million in federal dollars. Partners have
contributed about $45 million.

While funding may be used for a number of things that benefit
wetlands, acquisitions and easements are some of the higher costs.
Restoration and enhancement projects also are included.

Most recently, the state received two grants for $1 million
each, in 2004. Partners matched the grants with about $4.1 million
and are adding another $2.4 million in nonmatching funds toward the
projects, according to the USFWS.

One grant is for Phase 1 of the “Minnesota Marshes” project,
which takes in all or parts of 16 counties in western Minnesota,
including the Lake Christina-Anka wetland complex and the Big Stone
National Wildlife Refuge.

The project includes partners affecting a total of 4,530 acres
of wetlands and upland habitat on 16 tracts of public and private
lands. The state DNR is slated to acquire about 770 acres of land;
partners will restore another 115 acres, and by installing
water-control and/or fish exclusion structures, plan to enhance
more than 3,600 acres.

Phase 3 of the “Prairie Wetland Heritage Conservation
Initiative” is the other project granted $1 million. The project
includes 30 counties in southwestern Minnesota in which partners
will affect about 9,300 acres. Included is about 1,400 acres the
DNR will acquire; about 4,340 acres will be restored, and another
2,230 will be enhanced.

Norrgard said several partners are involved in each project, but
one group or organization assumes the “lead.”

Frequent partners include the USFWS, the DNR, Ducks Unlimited,
Pheasants Forever, the Legislative Commission on Minnesota
Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and other local groups and
clubs.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act was passed in 1989
to support activities under the North American Waterfowl Management
Plan, an international agreement that provides a strategy for the
long-term protection of waterfowl and shorebird habitat.

Besides Congressional appropriations, NAWCA is funded by money
received from fines, penalties, and forfeitures under the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and from interest accrued on the fund
established under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of
1937. Further, amendments to the Federal Aid in Sport Fish
Restoration Act of 1950 directed a portion of the moneys collected
from the federal fuel excise taxes on small gas engines be
allocated under NAWCA for coastal ecosystem projects.

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