Heinrich, Kennedy, Cassidy, Carper, Murkowski, and Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Restore Wetlands and Migratory Bird Habitat

Bill Would Build On The North American Wetlands Conservation Act’s 30 Years Of Success

On the 30th anniversary of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-La.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and colleagues introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize NAWCA through 2024. The legislation would also increase authorized annual funding for the program to $60 million.

NAWCA was originally enacted in 1989 to provide federal cost-share funding—in partnership with funding from state and local governments, private industry, and non-profit organizations like Ducks Unlimited—to projects that conserve North America’s waterfowl, fish, and wildlife resources.

“From sandhill cranes to ducks like pintails and mallards, wetlands are critical for providing habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife,” said Senator Heinrich. “As a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, I am proud to help approve NAWCA grants, and I have been impressed by the program’s demonstrated success in leveraging partnerships to restore essential habitat—including the Middle Rio Grande in New Mexico. NAWCA also supports our thriving multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation economy. We must build on this conservation success to ensure our kids and grandkids will be able to hunt, fish, and enjoy our wildlife.”

“In less than a century, Louisiana’s lost 1.2 million acres of wetlands,” said Senator Kennedy. “That’s the equivalent of the state of Delaware. I am proud to support the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act to rescue our wetlands. These habitats aren’t just a part of Louisiana’s landscape. They protect us from storms and bolster our economy. Preserving and restoring them is paramount to the Louisiana families who depend on our seafood and energy industries.”

“Wetlands are the heart and soul of Louisiana’s environment. They give recreation, jobs and protection from storms. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act must be renewed. So much in Louisiana and our country depends upon it,” said Senator Cassidy.

“Active stewardship of wetlands encourages tourism, strengthens flood protection and supports wildlife,” said Senator Carper, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee. “For 30 years, NAWCA has been responsible for countless initiatives and partnerships that breathe new life into ecosystems throughout the country. Its long list of successes include projects in Delaware, where bird migrations through our coastal wetlands draw legions of tourists year after year. All in all, NAWCA-funded partnerships in the First State have helped restore almost 11,000 acres of important habitat. I’m encouraged by the broad, bipartisan support of this law, and this reauthorization bill will strengthen conservation efforts and ensure NAWCA’s continued success for years to come.”

“For more than 30 years, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act has been a proven, cost-effective program for conserving our nation’s vital wetland and waterfowl habitat,” said President of Ducks Unlimited Rogers Hoyt. “The introduction of this bill is a noteworthy first step to ensure the next generation of Americans, especially waterfowl hunters, have access to the same natural resources we enjoy today. We thank Senators Heinrich, Kennedy, Cassidy, Carper and their colleagues for this strong act of bipartisan support of the NAWCA program and look forward to working with Congress to pass this bill.”

Wetlands secure freshwater supplies, recharge aquifers, and mitigate soil erosion and flooding disasters. In addition, waterfowl, migratory birds, fish, and mammals that depend on wetlands support multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and photography. NAWCA funding has been critical to acquiring, restoring, and enhancing this habitat in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico. In total, nearly 3,000 NAWCA projects have contributed to the conservation and restoration of nearly 30 million acres of habitat all across North America.

NAWCA has provided a great return on investment, generating, on average, three additional dollars for every federal dollar. Over the program’s history, federal grants totaling more than $1.6 billion have spurred $4.68 billion for NAWCA projects through matching and nonmatching funds. NAWCA funds have also supported an average of 7,500 jobs each year and more than $5 billion in annual economic activity.

Joining Senators Heinrich, Kennedy, Cassidy, and Carper as original cosponsors of the bill are U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Companion legislation was introduced in the House, led by U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

“NAWCA ensures that wetlands across the country are conserved and restored. Through partnerships involving government, non-profits, and community groups, this program enables wildlife to thrive,” said Senator Murkowski. “It’s important that we reauthorize NAWCA so we can continue its success in Alaska and elsewhere.”

“From The Teton River Basin Wetland in Teton County, which has secured more than $7.8 million in NAWCA grants and partner contributions to preserve more than 24,000 acres, to the Kootenai Valley Wetlands, which has secured more than $5.4 million in grant and partner funds to preserve nearly 10,000 acres in Boundary County, the NAWCA program is working for Idaho,” said Senator Crapo. “Combined, projects in Idaho have conserved more than 79,000 acres of wildlife habitat to ensure the preservation of vital wetland habitats for migratory bird species, waterfowl, and shorebirds.”

“From its lakes and lagoons to its bays and bayous, Alabama is home to a rich and biodiverse system of wetlands. Alabama’s wetlands are not only environmental treasures, they are also vital to the Alabama economy, attracting tourists and creating jobs in the outdoor recreation industry. Unfortunately, over the last century, the United States has lost more than half of its original wetlands. NAWCA is an essential, and highly cost-effective, program with support on both sides of the aisle. Its reauthorization is vital to ensure that the wetlands which are so important to Alabama, and throughout the country, are protected,” said Senator Doug Jones

“Over the past three decades, NAWCA grants have helped conserve millions of acres of wetlands across the country, including more than one million acres through nearly 100 separate projects in Maine,” said Senator Collins. “This legislation to reauthorize NAWCA helps preserve, restore, and manage wetlands while providing a variety of economic benefits. Wetlands provide critical habitat for a variety of birds, fish, and other animals, and they also offer recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts in Maine and throughout the country.”

“Protecting and restoring our wetlands, precious wildlife habitat, and watersheds – from Rio Mora to Bosque del Apache – is an environmental and economic imperative. New Mexico has lost upwards of 50 percent of our wetlands, and we are in danger of losing more. NAWCA is a critical and effective program for protecting these fragile ecosystems, leveraging private funds from public investment. I’m proud to lead the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NAWCA, and to join a bipartisan group of senators in extending this authority so we can safeguard the future of New Mexico’s wetlands and wildlife,” said Senator Udall

A copy of the bill is available here.

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