National Wildlife Refuge System

News Release

July 27, 1999                         		Hugh Vickery (202) 208-5634

          Migratory Bird Commission Approves $18.5 million 
          For North American Wetland Conservation

The National Wildlife Refuge System will grow by more than 21,000 acres as the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission this month approved expenditures of $8 million for acquisition of habitat at 8 refuges.

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt chairs the Cabinet- Congressional-level commission, which also approved nearly $10.5 million in grants for 17 wetlands conservation projects in Canada, the United States, and Mexico at its June 23, 1999 meeting at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC. These grants, from the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, were matched by more than $18.5 million in contributions by other agency and individual partners, bringing the total to $29 million for wetland conservation projects across the continent.

Additions to the National Wildlife Refuge System

The acquisition of wetland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System is financed through the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund from the sale of Duck Stamps and other funding sources. The proposals approved by the Commission at the June 23 meeting include:

Vermont: Purchase of 16,000 acres to add to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Essex County, Vermont. The acreage will help to conserve and protect migratory waterfowl habitat and provide feeding, resting, and nesting wetland habitat.

Arkansas: Purchase of 410 acres for Cache River NWR in Jackson, Prairie, Woodruff and Monroe counties in Arkansas to preserve and protect wintering areas vital to the long- term conservation of migratory waterfowl.

California: Purchase of an easement of 3,283 acres for Grasslands Wildlife Management Area in Merced County to preserve wetlands and associated habitat as an important wintering area for waterfowl and other migratory birds.

California: Purchase of 1,242 acres for Merced NWR in Merced County to restore and enhance wetland and waterfowl habitats and provide wintering habitat for migratory wildlife.

Maryland: Purchase of 86 acres for Blackwater NWR in Dorchester County to preserve marsh, shoreline, wooded swamp and forested upland habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, woodcock and neotropical migrants.

Massachusetts: Purchase of 4 acres for Great Meadows NWR in Middlesex County to preserve habitat for the production of waterfowl and to provide and preserve habitat for all species indigenous to the area.

Oregon: Purchase of 182 acres for Klamath Marsh NWR in Klamath County to provide high-quality production and migration habitat for migratory birds with an emphasis on conservation and enhancement of wildlife.

Maine: Purchase of 67 acres for Moosehorn NWR to protect wintering and nesting waterfowl habitat especially for black ducks.

North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Projects

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act provides matching grants to private and public organizations and individuals to carry out wetlands conservation projects in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. To date, Act-funded projects have been supported by more than 900 partners from federal, state and local agenci0es; private organizations, including environmental groups, small businesses, farmers, ranchers and other citizens. The partnerships these groups form develop projects focusing on wetlands acquisition, restoration and enhancement activities. The Commission approved 12 projects in Canada, two in Mexico, and three in the United States. The three projects approved in the United States are:

Kentucky: $1 million for purchase of 950 contiguous acres of bottomland hardwood forest for the Latourneau Woods Acquisition and Development Project in Fulton County. This land will be protected in perpetuity and enhanced to restore the area's natural hydrology. Latourneau Woods supports migrating waterfowl (especially mallards, black ducks, and green-winged teal), nesting wood ducks, shorebirds, and neo-tropical songbirds. In one day, more than 150,000 ducks have been seen using this area during peak migration. The area is also home to substantial white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobcat, river otter, raccoon, and fox populations, as well as reptiles, amphibians, and native flora. The project ensures essential resting, feeding, wintering, and breeding habitat to the many species that depend on it. Partner contributions total nearly $1.9 million.

Arkansas: $667,429 for the Point Remove Wetland Project in Pope and Conway counties. This project will manage 1,265 acres of winter water and restore 1,346 acres of bottomland hardwoods. In particular, 402 acres will be acquired through fee-title donation; 2,140 acres of wetlands will be restored; and 471 acres of agricultural land will be enhanced as waterfowl resting habitat. Water management on these lands will also benefit the entire 5,300-acre Point Remove Creek basin. The resulting complex of habitat types (upland and bottomland forests, moist-soil habitat, wetlands, resting habitat, and agricultural crops) will support a greater number and diversity of migrating and wintering waterfowl, shorebirds, and breeding neo-tropical migrants. Canada geese, 21 species of waterfowl, bald eagles, several State-listed bird species of special concern, and 16 high-priority migratory birds will benefit from restoration activities. Partner contributions total more than $1.3 million.

Alaska: $800,000 for the Kenai River Habitat Protection Project located in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula Borough. To date, partners have purchased 67 acres of estuarine and riparian wetlands (representing nearly 1.5 miles) along the Kenai River. This project will acquire 312 acres of wetlands through fee title (303) and easement donation (9). Acquisition will prevent further development and its associated negative impacts in that area. The Kenai River is best known for its legendary salmon runs. With five species of salmon, including 95-pound trophy king salmon and millions of red salmon, this river is the most popular sportfishing river in Alaska. Popularity, however, is the most significant threat to the resource. Heavy foot traffic degrades riparian vegetation important to waterfowl, while intense riverfront development brings disturbance and pollution to the habitats. The State of Alaska has been working with the Borough, local businesses, conservation groups, local landowners, and sportfishing guides to find a balance between preservation and utilization. Partners have contributed more than $1.6 million.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 established the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to approve land acquisitions from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund for the National Wildlife Refuge System that are considered important to waterfowl. 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 Commission's responsibilities increased significantly with passage of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989, which provides funding to encourage partnerships to protect, enhance and restore wetlands and other habitats for migratory birds and wildlife in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

These wetlands conservation projects are financed by the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, made up of appropriations; fines, penalties, and forfeitures under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and interest accrued on the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Fund administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, The Commission meets three times each year to review proposals for refuge acquisitions and wetlands conservation projects. Members of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission are the Secretary of the Interior, who serves as chairman; two members of the U.S. Senate (John Breaux and Thad Cochran); two members of the U.S. House of Representatives (John Dingell and Curt Weldon); the Secretary of Agriculture; and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Commission was established largely in response to public concern over plummeting waterfowl populations during the "Dust Bowl" days of the 1920s and 30s, reflecting the National Wildlife Refuge System's early commitment to waterfowl protection.

While its importance to waterfowl remains, the refuge system today hosts a variety of habitats supporting all kinds of wildlife, including many of the Nation's endangered species, big game animals such as buffalo and elk, prairie wildflowers and cypress forests, trophy trout and tiny butterflies.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 96-year-old National Wildlife Refuge System is now made up of 517 refuges and thousands of waterfowl production areas in all 50 states and U.S. territories. More than 30 million people annually visit refuges for a variety of recreational activities, such as birdwatching, fishing, hunting, and nature photography, while hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren visit refuges each year to learn about nature and the environment.

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.


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Last updated: October 20, 2008