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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Presents the Blue-Winged Teal Award
To Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council

Federal Duck Stamp Artist Scot Storm signs collector sheets of his newly released Federal Duck Stamp. Photo by Larry Dean/USFWS.

Acting Regional Director Charlie Wooley joins the Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council to display their North American Waterfowl Management Plan Blue-winged Teal Award. Courtesy photo by Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

By Larry Dean
Regional Office – External Affairs

On June 20, Acting Regional Director Charlie Wooley presented the North American Waterfowl Management Plan Blue-winged Teal Award for 2018 to Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presents the annual award to individuals, partnerships or programs whose activities at the national or regional level result in substantial benefits to waterfowl, other wetland- associated migratory bird populations or wetlands habitats.

The Council is a Minnesota legislative recommending body made up of four legislators and eight citizens whose duty is to make recommendations for the appropriation of about $100 million annually for conservation projects. That funding comes through legislative appropriation signed into law by the governor. To date, the Council has recommended more than $1 billion to conservation agencies and non-profit conservation partners for 347 important wetland, prairie, forest, and other habitat conservation projects and programs in Minnesota.

"The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is an important partner in restoring many of the state's prairie wetland complexes that are crucial to waterfowl production and the waterfowl hunting tradition in Minnesota," said Charlie Wooley, Acting Regional Director. “The Blue-winged Teal Award is a well-deserved honor. We are grateful for the Council’s contributions to advance conservation which have had a tremendous state and national impact.”

Since 2009, the Council has worked diligently to ensure the integrity of Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriation recommendations and to ensure they relate directly to the restoration, protection, and enhancement of habitat for fish, game, and wildlife. Waterfowl Production Areas purchased and restored with Outdoor Heritage Funds, for example, provide important habitat for waterfowl and many other species including monarch butterflies, meadowlarks, bobolinks and pheasants.

“The Council is a legislative recommending body that takes immense pride in properly executing their duties of making recommendations for appropriating about $100 million each year. As the recommendations are ultimately appropriated by the Minnesota House and Senate, and signed into law by the Governor, all three branches of our government also take immense pride in making sure these tax dollars are properly vetted and used for on-the-ground habitat projects,” said Mark Johnson, Executive Director of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. “In other words, there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen and they all have a very intimate role to play in this wonderful annual $100 million Minnesota habitat pie we make. Oh, and we have a lot of sous chefs too - the stakeholder groups who passionately bird dog the entire process.”

The results have been impressive with the protection of over 88,000 acres of land in fee-title and over 300,000 acres via conservation easements across Minnesota. Additionally, more than 46,000 acres have been restored and nearly 500,000 acres of wetlands, prairies, forests and other important habitats have been enhanced.

The Council was nominated for the national Blue-winged Teal Award by Ducks Unlimited. Jon Schneider, Director of Minnesota Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited added, “Since 2009, the Council has effectively made recommendations in a very organized, public, and transparent fashion, resulting in excellent wildlife habitat conservation projects and programs that address the goals and objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan within the spirit of its partnerships and conservation collaboration. Many of the Outdoor Heritage Fund habitat projects and programs funded directly address the wetland, prairie, and forest habitat conservation goals, objectives, and strategies of the Prairie Pothole and Upper Mississippi River – Great Lakes Joint Ventures, and the Council regularly partners with non-federal match in North American Wetland Conservation Act grant proposals.”

Last updated: July 16, 2019