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Secretary Bernhardt Announces $78 Million in Funding for
Wetland Conservation Projects and National Wildlife Refuges

Two Midwest Region projects garner $1 million each in NAWCA grants

ILRiverLegacyPic1.jpg
The future location of new and upgraded infrastructure capable of meeting hydrology and management needs of the Sanganois SFWA Walk-Ins, a part of the Illinois River Legacy project receiving a NAWCA grant.  Photo courtesy of Michael Sertle/Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

The future location of new and upgraded infrastructure capable of meeting hydrology and management needs of the Sanganois SFWA Walk-Ins, a part of the Illinois River Legacy project receiving a NAWCA grant.  Photo courtesy of Michael Sertle/Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

By Vanessa Kauffman
Headquarters – External Affairs

Larry Dean
Regional Office – External Affairs

The Minnesota River Prairies II project in Minnesota, and Conserving the Illinois River Legacy project in Illinois each were awarded $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants as the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, approved $78 million in funding nationwide for various wetland conservation projects.

Of the funds issued, $29.4 million was allocated for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to conserve or restore more than 205,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds in 22 states throughout the United States.

The $1 award to the Minnesota River Prairies II project goes to Pheasants Forever, Inc. and will also include another $3.9 million in matching funds. The focus of the project is permanent protection of breeding and migratory waterfowl habitat with acquisitions in priority landscapes that include remnant native prairie, and restoration of wetlands and grasslands.

Acquisitions made with these funds are within the Prairie Pothole Region have the potential of benefiting millions of ducks including mallards, blue-winged teal, gadwalls, northern pintails, American wigeon, northern shovelers, canvasbacks, redheads, ruddy decks and other water dependent birds.

The $1 million award to the Conserving the Illinois River Legacy project goes to Ducks Unlimited and will include another $4.1 million in matching funds. Acquisitions for this project are vital to waterfowl as 90% of historic wetlands in Illinois have been lost, and about 44% of the 426,000-acre floodplain of the Illinois River has been drained for agricultural use. This project focuses on the protection, restoration and enhancement of emergent, forested and submerged aquatic habitat for waterfowl, other migratory birds, and other fish and wildlife. Wildlife benefiting from this effort include mallards, northern pintails, wood ducks, lesser scaup, green-winged teal, canvasbacks, cerulean and prothonotary warblers, American woodcock and other wetland dependent wildlife, as well as the federally endangered Indiana bat and state endangered osprey.

"These two projects not only provide protected and improved habitat for regionally important bird species in our region, but also provide ecological goods and services to our society, such as public access and run-off retention," Anna Sidie-Slettedahl, Region 3 Migratory Birds, said.

Grants made through NAWCA come during the 30th anniversary of the Act. The grants will be matched by more than $77 million in partner funds. NAWCA grants ensure waterfowl and other birds are protected throughout their lifecycles.

“Preserving our nation’s wildlife and providing access to our public lands is critically important,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Landmark legislation like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act has made that possible for all Americans and these treasured natural resources during the past 30 years.”

Wetlands provide many ecological, economic and social benefits such as habitat for fish, wildlife and a variety of plants. NAWCA grants conserve bird populations and wetland habitat while supporting local economies and American traditions such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching, family farming and cattle ranching.

Many birds found in the United States spend part of their time in other countries, and NAWCA provides grants to Canada and Mexico to ensure waterfowl and other birds are protected throughout their lifecycles. The commission approved $33.6 million for 17 projects in those countries.

NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. Since 1989, funding has advanced the conservation of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico while engaging more than 6,100 partners in over 2,900 projects. Lean more about the grant projects.

The commission also approved more than $15.1 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 4,886 acres for five national wildlife refuges. These funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.”

“The Duck Stamp program has been instrumental in conserving wetlands around the country for decades,” said Bernhardt. “These refuges and many others across the United States show our ongoing commitment to providing more places for Americans to hunt, fish and recreate.”

Funds raised from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps go toward the acquisition or lease of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Duck Stamps – while required for waterfowl hunters as an annual license – are also voluntarily purchased by birders, outdoor enthusiasts and fans of national wildlife refuges who understand the value of preserving some of the most diverse and important wildlife habitats in our nation.

The following national wildlife refuges are approved for funding:

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland: $5,980,000

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas: $1,988,000

San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Texas: $1,690,900

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California: $3,415,000

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, Washington: $2,092,690

Since 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp Program and Migratory Bird Conservation Fund have provided more than $1 billion for habitat conservation in the Refuge System.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is an unparalleled network of 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. Refuges offer world-class public recreation, from fishing, hunting and wildlife observation to photography and environmental education. More than 55 million people visit refuges every year, creating economic booms for local communities.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission is chaired by the Secretary of the Interior. Its members include U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico; U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas; Representatives Robert J. Wittman of Virginia and Mike Thompson of California; Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture; and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The commission has helped in conserving much of this nation’s most important waterfowl habitat and in establishing or enhancing many of the country’s most popular destinations for waterfowl hunting.

Additional information about North American wetlands and waterfowl conservation can be found at

https://www.fws.gov/birds/, which offers waterfowl enthusiasts, biologists and agency managers with the most up-to-date waterfowl habitat and population information.

A family of hunters prepares to go duck hunting at Emiquon Preserve, a part of the Illinois River Legacy which received a NAWCA grant.  Photo courtesy of Michael Sertle/Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

A family of hunters prepares to go duck hunting at Emiquon Preserve, a part of the Illinois River Legacy which received a NAWCA grant.  Photo courtesy of Michael Sertle/Ducks Unlimited, Inc.


Last updated: August 16, 2019