Former USFWS directors urge Congress to reauthorize NAWCA

On Mar. 30, six former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directors sent a joint letter to leaders of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Natural Resources urging for the reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). The Act, which creates an incentive-based wetland conservation grant program, has not been authorized since FY 2012, though it still receives annual appropriations in the USFWS budget.

NAWCA was passed by Congress in 1989 to support the protection, restoration, and enhancement of waterfowl habitat as outlined in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). NAWMP was signed by the U.S. and Canada in 1986 and by Mexico in 1994 in response to broadly declining waterfowl populations. NAWCA provides grant funding for wetland conservation projects throughout all three countries.

In the letter, the former USFWS directors praise NAWCA’s history of promoting important wetland conservation partnerships between government agencies, non-profit organizations, private landowners, and other groups and individuals. NAWCA includes a non-federal minimum funding match of 1:1, but dollars have often been matched by conservation partners at above-minimum ratios. Over 5,600 partners have contributed to over 2,644 wetland and wildlife conservation projects in the past two decades utilizing NAWCA dollars and matched funding.

On Mar. 22, The Wildlife Society signed onto a letter, also addressed to the leading members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Natural Resources, in support of NAWCA’s reauthorization. Signed by over 30 conservation and outdoor recreation organizations, the letter highlights NAWCA’s economic and environmental benefits and asks committee members to commit their support for NAWCA funding in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process.

On Feb. 15, Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA) introduced H.R. 1099, the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act, with the intent to reauthorize NAWCA through 2022 at a maximum of $50 million per year. The Extension Act was referred to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands on Feb. 28 and has not yet seen further activity. NAWCA was last authorized at $75 million for each of the years FY 2008–2012.

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