The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the acquisition of more than 20,000 acres of important habitat at its September 15 meeting in Washington, D.C. The acreage will add vital new lands to 16 separate National Wildlife Refuges in 10 states, strengthening our national commitment ot conserving migratory birds and increasing the opportunities for Americans to enjoy the benefits of abundant native wildlife, fish and plants.
The cabinet-level Congressional commission, chaired by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, approved the expenditure of more than $13 million to acquire the land. Many of the land acquisitions were approved for refuges along one of the migratory waterfowl "flyways," four major travel corridors that migratory birds follow on spring and fall migrations.
"The land acquisitions approved by the Conservation Commission will protect important migratory bird habitat, ensuring that the National Wildlife Refuge System continues to provide vital nesting, breeding, feeding and resting places for migratory bird populations," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge system.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 established the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to approve land acquisitions considered important to waterfowl from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since its inception, the commission has approved more than 4.5 million acres of land acquisitions for the 93 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Fund is supported by revenue collected from Federal Duck Stamp sales, import duties collected on arms and ammunition, fees from right-of-way payments to the refuge system and receipts from national wildlife refuge entrance fees.
New National Wildlife Refuge System acquisitions:
Arkansas- Purchase of 1,165 acres for White River NWR to protect important bottomland hardwood forest habitat for migratory birds and a major tributary to the White River, one of the few remaining unchanneled rivers in the region. The Commission also approved the purchase of 141 wetland and bottomland hardwood acres at Wapanocca NWR, and 728 acres of wetlands and cultivated farmland at Overflow NWR. Oregon and California- Acquisition of 3,162 acres of seasonal wetlands and croplands at Lower Klamath NWR in northern California and southern Oregon. The land could be used to store surplus water in late winter and spring from Klamath lake, benefitting spring migratory and breeding waterfowl, as well as wintering bald eagles.
Colorado- Purchase of 1,305 acres at Browns Park NWR in northwestern Colorado, land that encompasses deep-water marshes important for breeding and migration stopover, as well as adjacent grassland nesting habitat. The Commission also approved the acquisition of 611 acres of bottomland and peat bog at Alamosa NWR in Colorado's San Luis Valley. The habitat will provide protection for several federal and state listed endangered and threatened species, as well as resting, roosting and feeding areas for migratory birds.
Georgia - Purchase of 887 acres of bottomland hardwood at Savannah NWR in northeastern Georgia. The area is an important feeding and roosting site for wintering waterfowl, as well as a nesting and brood-rearing area for wood ducks.
Louisiana- Purchase of 200 acres of bottomland hardwood forest and swamp at Lake Ophelia NWR in central Louisiana, and 1,278 acres of bottomland hardwood forest and bayou at Upper Ouachita NWR in northern Louisiana. Both acquisitions will provide critical wintering habitat for mallards, pintails and wood ducks, as well as Canada geese and other migratory birds.
Maryland- Acquisition of 214 acres of marsh, shoreline and wooded swamp habitat at Blackwater NWR on Maryland's eastern shore. The approved acquisition will protect valuable marshland habitat for waterfowl.
Montana- In partnership with the National Park Trust, purchase of 40 acres of inholdings at Red Rock Lakes NWR in southwestern Montana near Yellowstone National Park. The parcel encompasses Red Rock creek, a stream critical to the survival of the refuge's native cutthroat trout, while providing important migratory bird habitat. The cost of the acquisition will be shared equally with the National Park Trust.
New Jersey- Purchase of 13 acres of wooded wetlands and seasonally flooded hayfields at Wallkill River NWR in northern New Jersey. The tract extends along a tributary of the Wallkill River and is heavily used by migrating waterfowl, particularly wood ducks.
Texas- The Commission approved the acquisition of 7,281 acres of wetland habitat at Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR in southern Texas. The purchase will be made in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Also approved was the purchase of 508 acres of winter waterfowl habitat at Brazoria NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast, and 3,110 acres of swamp and bottomland hardwood habitat at Trinity River NWR.
In addition, the Conservation Commission approved the expenditure of $922,000 to develop and pay for advertising and public service announcements encouraging non-hunters to purchase federal Duck Stamps. By purchasing Duck Stamps, which are required for all migratory bird hunters, even non-hunters can help the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund preserve wetlands and other migratory bird habitat.
Acting in its role as overseer of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Commission also approved 30 grants that will aid wetland restoration, protection and enhancement projects in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The 11 Canadian projects are located in 9 provinces and affect over 245,000 acres of land. Grant funds totaling $9.1 million will be combined with $12.8M in partner funds. Grant funds of $611,000 will be matched with $704,000 in partner funds for the four Mexican projects. The 15 U.S. projects are located in 15 states and affect over 186,000 acres. Grant funds of $13 million will be combined with $58.2 million in partner funds. For the total slate of 30 projects, almost 432,000 acres of wetlands and supporting upland habitat will be enhanced, restored or protected with $22.8 million in grant funds and $71.7 million in partner funds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93- million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.