Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

September 4, 2008

Contact     Sue Oliveira, (303) 236-8130 

                        sue_oliveira@fws.gov

                 A. Eric Alvarez, (703) 358-1713

                         a_eric_alvarez@fws.gov

 

FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE EXPENDS ONE BILLIONTH DOLLAR FROM MIGRATORY BIRD CONSERVATION FUND,

MARKING MAJOR MILESTONE FOR HABITAT PROTECTION

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the one billionth dollar from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund - the nation’s primary funding source for migratory bird habitat acquisition and protection – was used to complete the purchase of a permanent conservation easement on private land in Campbell County in north-central South Dakota.  This expenditure marks a major milestone in the ongoing effort by the Service and its public and private partners to permanently protect important migratory bird habitat in South Dakota and across the nation.

 

The 133-acre grassland easement in Campbell County will be part of the Service’s Sand Lake Wetland Management District and was acquired through the Small Wetlands Program, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary as the agency’s premier program working to acquire and protect vital wetlands and grasslands to sustain and enhance the nation’s migratory bird populations. The easement is located within the western portion of the Missouri Couteau, an area consisting of large expanses of native grasslands and wetlands, and will protect and conserve waterfowl production habitat on the property and provide nesting habitat for migratory grassland bird species.  In addition, the easement will complement nearby Waterfowl Production areas owned in fee by the Service and open to the public for hunting, fishing, and wildlife-dependent recreation.  The landowners will maintain their existing cattle ranching and farming operation on the property.

 

“At this milestone, we mark a major bird conservation achievement, and we acknowledge the tremendous challenges that climate change and crop conversion pose for the long-term productivity of the Prairie Pothole Region and other nationally-significant migratory bird habitat,” said Stephen Guertin, Regional Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region, which includes South Dakota.  “Building on the success of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, the Small Wetlands Program, and other efforts, the Service will promote landscape-level planning, strategic investments of conservation dollars and resources, and strong public-private partnerships to ensure the well-being of the nation’s migratory bird populations.”

 

The 1934 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp Act, created the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to acquire land and water habitat, typically wetlands and grasslands, important for migratory bird conservation.  This habitat is managed by the Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System and includes fee title land as well as permanent conservation easements on private land. Revenues from the Federal Duck Stamp program, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary, and from other sources such as import duties received on arms and ammunition, contribute to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.

 

Much of the fee habitat acquired by the Service is open to the public and provides outstanding recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation.  Through cooperation with local landowners, the Service is able to purchase grassland and wetland easements that allow landowners to continue farming and ranching practices, while protecting migratory bird habitat. 

 

Conserving migratory bird habitat in South Dakota has long been a focus of the Service and its public and private partners.  To date, the Service has used Migratory Bird Conservation Funds to place 1,324,588 acres of migratory bird habitat in South Dakota under the protection of the National Wildlife Refuge System, at a cost of $143,893,242.  Along with North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and Iowa, South Dakota is part of the U.S. portion of the Prairie Pothole Region, once the greatest expanse of grasslands and small wetlands on earth.  Tillage of the prairie and drainage of wetlands for intensive agriculture has reduced native prairie habitat in the region to only 2% of the pre-European contact landscape.  These remaining lands now produce nearly 50% of the ducks in North America.  As crop conversion continues throughout the Prairie Pothole Region and the conservation community works to identify potential implications of climate change in the region, the Service and its partners are seeking to permanently protect these and other priority lands in order to maintain the current waterfowl production capability of the U.S. portion of the region.

 

For more information about the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District, visit: http://www.fws.gov/sandlake

 

For more information about the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Small Wetlands Program, visit: www.fws.gov/refuges/smallwetlands

 

For more information about the Duck Stamp Program, visit: www.fws.gov/duckstamps

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.