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More than $200 million allocated for bird conservation projects

A Common Goldeneye performs a breeding display on a lake in Alberta. Photo by David Mundy

“Show. Me. The. Money.” — Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise

Bird conservation may not seem to have much to do with the world of professional athletes and their agents as depicted in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. But just like sports, conservation needs money — lots of it.

So, it’s always welcome news when, every September and April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces new funding for conservation projects aimed at protecting birds and their habitats. This week, FWS said more than $200 million has been designated to help conserve or restore nearly 500,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other birds across North America – including Canada and Mexico.

The first $78 million will come in grants made by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which is authorized by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).

The grants will be matched by nearly $125 million in funds from 199 partners, which include private landowners, states, local governments, conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups, tribes, land trusts, and corporations.

Plus, the commission also approved $1.8 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which is supported primarily by Duck Stamp sales, to conserve waterfowl habitat on national wildlife refuges in three states. Here’s where the Duck Stamp funds will be spent:

  • Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in Maine – $1,267,700 to acquire 1,811 acres of wetlands and surrounding uplands that will provide nesting habitat for waterfowl, including American Black Ducks, Wood Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, and Common Mergansers, as well as other migratory birds. The acquisition will secure public access to the property and 5,000 acres of adjoining refuge lands.
  • Currituck National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina – $525,000 to acquire 70 acres of wetlands and surrounding uplands that will provide habitat for waterfowl, including American Black Ducks, Wood Ducks, and Mallards, as well as other migratory birds. The acquisition will provide road access to the northwestern portion of the refuge, simplifying access for the public and FWS staff.
  • Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey – $94,000 to acquire 171 acres of tidal and freshwater marsh that will provide habitat for thousands of wintering waterfowl, including American Black Ducks, Northern Pintails, and Mallards, as well as shorebirds and colonial-nesting wading birds.
Saltmarsh Sparrow. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The NAWCA money will be spent on 56 projects, which will receive anywhere from $154,000 to $18.5 million each, not counting the additional partner funds. Eight projects are in Canada, 16 are in Mexico, and 32 are in the U.S. An FWS spokesperson explains that “all projects include habitat protection, restoration, or enhancement, or a combination of those activities. Projects are typically implemented over two to five years.” Examples of the projects include:

  • Continental Marsh Enhancement in Louisiana – $1 million to restore and enhance habitat within the Terrebonne and Pontchartrain basins of coastal Louisiana, which will help offset dramatic coastal wetland losses.
  • Southwest Crown Wetland Conservation in Montana – $1 million to conserve and restore 3,879 acres on public and private lands in the Swan River watershed of southwestern Montana. Species that will benefit include Mallard, Lesser Scaup, and Northern Pintail.
  • Accelerating Wetlands in PA II in Pennsylvania – $1 million will restore 1,078 acres of wetland and 104 acres of grassland habitat in north central Pennsylvania, including tracts that provide important habitat to American Black Ducks. 
  • Restoring the Great Marsh in Massachusetts – $951,650 to permanently protect 140 acres of salt marsh and adjacent uplands and restore 916 acres of salt marsh in the Great Marsh, the largest salt marsh habitat in New England. The marsh is critical habitat for the Saltmarsh Sparrow. The project will assist the sparrow as well as Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, waterfowl, and shorebirds.

“It’s remarkable that the programs we are discussing were established before we appreciated what climate change was – or how threatened many bird populations are,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “Not too long ago, a study found that there are 3 billion fewer birds in North America than there were 50 years ago. This Commission’s investments are critical to keep habitats whole and connected and help birds flourish for the next hundred years and beyond.”

To find details on all of the newly funded projects, go to https://epermits.fws.gov/grantsum/. Type “2021” in the “Window year” box and “2” in the “Window number” box, and then click “find.” That will, in fact, show you the money.

Study: 3 billion birds lost in U.S. & Canada since 1970

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