Canadian ‘joint venture’ boots Delta Waterfowl

By Tim
Associate Editor

Bismarck, N.D. – Disenchanted with the direction of waterfowl
conservation in Canada and its refusal to agree to what it
classified as a ‘gag order,’ has led to dismissal of Delta
Waterfowl from the largest conservation partnership in prairie
Canada – the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture of the North American
Waterfowl Management Plan.

Delta officials declined to sign onto a ‘charter’ developed by
the PHJV board, stating that agreeing to the charter would’ve
handcuffed its efforts to help waterfowl.

‘Notwithstanding the charter language, Delta Waterfowl decided
not to endorse the PHJV Charter, as this endorsement may be
construed to indicate our support for status quo in PHJV
conservation or delivery, or the current state of accomplishment
tracking within the PHJV,’ Delta president Rob Olson wrote in a
letter to Delta supporters. ‘Accordingly, PHJV partners voted to
remove Delta Waterfowl from the joint venture board.’

In reality, Delta official, say, the action may have been some
time in coming. They say they’ve long disagreed with claims of the
joint venture board in terms of land conserved, and methods of
‘delivery’ of conservation.

Delta’s departure from the joint venture won’t endanger its
popular ‘Adopt-a-Pothole’ program, officials said. How it will
affect the joint venture remains to be seen.

Joint ventures are partnerships developed under the NAWMP
between state, federal, and local government, tribes, conservation
groups, and individuals. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, there are 11 NAWMP habitat joint ventures in the United
States and three in Canada. Some of the joint ventures overlap
between countries. Many groups and agencies are involved in more
than one, including Delta, which is a member of the Prairie Pothole
Joint Venture in the United States’ Midwest.

While Delta officials say they’re pleased with PPJV progress,
the joint venture that works to improve duck breeding grounds in
Canada hasn’t done enough, considering the amount of money – most
of it from a U.S. taxpayer-funded program – spent on

John Devney, senior vice president of Delta and stationed in
Bismarck, N.D., said the group’s concerns about conservation
strategy in Canada were made known a couple years ago.

Tops on the list was the PHJV’s interpretation of how much land
had been conserved, Devney said.

PHJV officials spoke – and related to the public – in terms of
acres ‘secured,’ Devney said. Joint venture literature says about
3.6 million acres have been secured/influenced under the NAWMP,
since 1989. Add to that another 1.8 million acres of wetland
habitat located within NAWMP key program areas and secured prior to
1988 are managed by PHJV partners, and ‘PHJV partners have
conserved a total 5.4 million acres.’

Devney said Delta believes only about 450,000 acres are
perpetually protected, the number that should be used to
demonstrate what’s been accomplished.

According to PHJV information available on the Web, ‘To date,
$641 million have been invested into the entire breadth of
programming in prairie Canada.’

What ultimately led to Delta’s dismissal from participation
within the PHJV, however, was its rejection of the charter,
something Delta officials say was unique to this particular joint
venture – and that it was their actions that prompted PHJV board
members to create it.

‘We believe that the PHJV charter contained language that could
have constrained Delta’s independent ability to communicate PHJV
progress to stakeholders and raise funds from certain sources for
waterfowl conservation,’ Olson wrote in his letter.

Devney called the charter a ‘gag order,’ an action that promotes
status quo and limits innovation in conservation.

Devney said Delta believes it’s important, nowadays, to focus
attention on policy and partnerships with landowners.

‘We need to integrate ag policy and conservation policy,’ he
said. ‘It’s a better way to affect conservation.’

In the meantime, Devney said Delta is happy with what’s being
done within the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture.

Officials with that joint venture, he said, ‘can account for
every single dollar (spent), and every single acre,’ Devney

Much of the money for the joint ventures comes the North
American Waterfowl Conservation Act, the funding mechanism of the
continental waterfowl plan. Those funds must be matched – at least
1 to 1 – by non-federal entities. Other funding comes from
donations to conservation groups as well as state grants, Devney
said. He said NAWCA contributes about $40 million annually to
conservation efforts.

As for Delta’s Adopt-a-Pothole program, Devney said it should be
unaffected by the PHJV board’s removal of Delta. Under that
program, the first perpetual easement was granted in 1999.
Currently, there are 168 agreements in place that protect 24,000
acres of wetlands and associated uplands, he said.

Devney said Delta will continue to provide matching funds for
NAWCA grants; the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation will
administer the program.

What’s the future hold for Delta and the PHJV? Devney said he
hopes the conservation group eventually can play a role with that
joint venture again.

‘We have a perspective that’s unique and a vision that’s
unique,’ he said. ‘It’s a table we’d certainly like to sit at. We
have tools we think would benefit the joint venture.’

Members of the PHJV could not be reached prior to Outdoor News
press time. Members of the joint venture include Ducks Unlimited
Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Manitoba Habitat
Heritage Corporation, Wetlands International-The Americas, and


Ducks Unlimited reported last week that the U.S. House of
Representatives has taken a step toward helping the nation’s
wetlands by voting to reauthorize the North American Wetlands
Conservation Act.

The proposed reauthorization bill asks for a five-year extension
of NAWCA and authorizes up to $375 million in funding during that

The Senate hasn’t acted on the NAWCA bill.

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