Plan Science Support Team (NSST)
Waterfowl Status Report
|Safeguarding Our Waterfowl Heritage
1986 – 2006
So what happened on May 14, 1986? The U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary and Canada’s Minister of the Environment signed a precedent-setting, continental conservation strategy in an effort to reverse the precipitous declines being recorded across North America for waterfowl populations and their habitats. The signing of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan launched a unique partnership, upon which hundreds more would be built. In 1994, the Government of Mexico joined this partnership, fulfilling the continental vision of the Plan.
What prompted the Plan? Looking back, waterfowl populations had plummeted
to record lows by 1985. Some 53 percent of the wetland acres present in the
contiguous United States when settlers first arrived had since been lost. For
Canada, the loss was 30 to 70 percent. Habitat critical to waterfowl’s
survival was disappearing—fast. Recognizing that international cooperation
was paramount to recovery efforts for a migratory resource, concerned U.S.
and Canadian scientists and other conservationists worked together at the behest
of their governments to develop a strategy for restoring waterfowl populations
to their healthier 1970’s levels.
What’s made the Plan work all these years? In short, dedicated partners and supporters. The Plan not only established science-based population and habitat conservation goals but also created an innovative mechanism to help meet those goals on the ground: regional, public-private partnerships called “joint ventures.”. From the long-established joint ventures to those in various stages of development, there are nearly two dozen such partnerships at work across the continental landscape. In addition, three species-specific joint ventures are addressing the needs of the black duck, Arctic geese, and sea ducks throughout their international ranges.
Dedication from federal, provincial, and state agencies, flyway councils, nongovernmental conservation organizations, research institutions, waterfowl hunters, private landowners, tribes, farmers, companies, and many others, has kept the Plan going strong and has helped to further its goals these last 20 years. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 also has been a significant supporter of joint venture activities across the continent through its Grants Program.
What are some accomplishments to date? Plan joint ventures have invested $4.5 billion to conserve 15.7 million acres of waterfowl habitat. Individual accomplishments are available through the joint ventures’ Web sites. Their projects not only advance waterfowl conservation, but make substantial contributions toward the conservation of all wetland-associated species. Additionally, the Plan joint venture concept has been upheld as the model to follow by conservationists endeavoring to address many other resource issues.
Are we there yet? According to 2005 survey data, populations for three of the principal duck species surveyed have exceeded Plan goals. These were gadwall, green-winged teal, and northern shoveler. Populations for scaup and northern pintail, two species of greatest concern, remain below Plan goals—by 46 and 54 percent, respectively. The 1986 Plan set forth a 15-year strategy for meeting waterfowl population and habitat conservation goals, but also called for periodic updates to the Plan to respond to changing conditions and scientific developments. The Plan was updated in 1994, 1998, and 2004—each time expanding its scope, vision, and partnership base while also strengthening the science upon which efforts are based. The mission continues, and the latest update, 2004 Strategic Guidance: Strengthening the Biological Foundation, has set another 15-year course for meeting the continuing challenges of waterfowl conservation.