Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


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

August 20, 2007

Contacts:  Sherry Krest 410-573-4525

                   Ron Reynolds 701-250-4413

                   Diana Weaver 413-253-8329

                   Barb Perkins 303-236-4588


Nesting Habitat Restored For Ruddy Ducks Lost to Oil Spill in 2000


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has successfully completed restoration of 1,850 acres ruddy duck habitat in south-central North Dakota and north-central South Dakota to compensate for injuries from an oil spill that happened in Maryland.  Private landowners restored cropland by planting perennial grass to increase nesting habitat for ruddy ducks. Conservation agreements were placed on these properties to protect the grasslands.   


In April 2000, a pipeline ruptured, spilling more than 140,000 gallons of oil into Maryland’s Patuxent River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. The spill injured or destroyed wetlands, beaches, and wildlife, including resident birds and migratory waterfowl.


“The spill was especially devastating to ruddy ducks,” said Marvin Moriarty, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast. “More than 550 ruddy ducks were lost to the spill, including those killed outright and the young they would have produced.”


To compensate for lost ducks, the natural resources trustee agencies, including the Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the State of Maryland, calculated that 1,850 acres of nesting habitat needed to be restored.  This summer that goal was reached through the efforts of the several Service programs, including the  Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program in the Northeast Region, and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife and the Habitat and Population Evaluation Team in the Mountain-Prairie Region.


Ruddy ducks are migratory. They breed in the prairie pothole wetlands of the Midwest, including portions of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and southern Canada. Prairie potholes are grassy, water-holding depressions of glacial origin. These potholes provide the most productive wetland habitat for waterfowl in North America.  By creating more nesting habitat in the prairie potholes, there will be more ruddy ducks wintering in the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay.

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 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


- FWS -