NAWCA sees increase in president’s budget

Washington – A recently released overview of President Barack
Obama’s 2010 budget provides little detail in most areas, but does
provide financial promise for one of the nation’s most productive
conservation programs, according to Ducks Unlimited.

The so-called “preliminary” budget plan would increase the
federal appropriation for the North American Wetlands Conservation
Act about 25 percent and, by 2012, according to a budget summary,
funding would approach the Congressionally authorized ceiling of
$75 million.

It’s the first step in increasing the scope of the NAWCA
program, but DU officials say it’s important that the Obama
administration recognizes its importance.

“A lot of it (the preliminary budget) was non-specific,” said
Scott Sutherland, DU’s director of governmental affairs. “But it
was interesting that NAWCA was honed right in on.”

NAWCA, which provides matching federal money (partner
contributions must be no less than a 1:1 ratio) to “organizations
and individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out
wetlands conservation projects in the United States, Canada, and
Mexico for the benefit of wetlands-associated migratory birds and
other wildlife.” The act was passed by Congress 20 years ago.

The vast majority of NAWCA dollars come from federal
appropriations, though a portion comes from fines and penalties
paid for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as well as
the interest accrued in Sport Fish Restoration Act
(Dingell-Johnson) and Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson)
accounts.

The federal appropriation currently being debated for NAWCA is
$42.6 million, according to DU. The president’s budget would
increase that amount.

In the Interior Department portion of Obama’s “A New Era of
Responsibility” budget, he “increases funds by $10 million for
North American Wetlands Conservation Act activities to acquire,
restore, or protect wetlands used by migratory waterfowl and other
birds.”

The plan takes NAWCA forward further: “This is the first step in
fully funding NAWCA at $75 million by 2012,” the budget states.

“We are very pleased to see the administration recognize the
success that NAWCA has had through its 20-year history,” Sutherland
said in a DU press release. “The program has conserved more than 23
million acres across North America since 1989, and this increase is
acknowledgement of that success.”

Minnesota has benefitted from NAWCA grants since their
inception; according to DU, the state ranks third in the nation in
dollars received from the source, at $31.8 million. (California is
No. 1, at $58.4 million, while Louisiana is second, at $42
million.)

Ryan Heiniger, DU director of conservation programs for
Minnesota and Iowa, said the grants for Minnesota have resulted in
the restoration, enhancement, and protection of more than 200,000
acres of habitat. Besides DU’s participation in the grant process,
other partners of note have been the state DNR, Pheasants Forever,
and matches from the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota
Resources. Heiniger said the latest funding source, the dedicated
funding’s (sales tax) Outdoor Heritage Fund, also could be a match
for federal dollars.

DU says economic studies have shown the NAWCA annually has
spurred the creation of more than 3,700 jobs in the United
States.

Overall, the Interior’s budget for 2010 would increase 6 percent
from ’09 under the Obama plan, to about $12 billion. It includes
funding for monitoring climate change, and creating projects that
“help wildlife adjust.” There’s also funding for wetlands
restoration in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast.

Sutherland said DU is concerned about possible reductions in the
amounts people – especially the wealthy – can make to non-profit
organizations such as Ducks Unlimited.

Other groups have expressed similar concern.

A more detailed presidential budget is expected within
months.

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