More than $26 million has been awarded from a federal program for projects to protect and restore about 165,000 acres of wetlands in the United States. Project partners are providing an additional $86 million in matching funds, and $23.3 million in nonmatching funds.

The spending recently approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission is for 27 projects through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

“The grants were awarded under NAWCA’s U.S. Standard Grants Program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” according to an agency news release. “Partners in these projects will contribute an additional $86 million in matching funds to help support these conservation effects. The grants are funded by annual Congressional appropriations; fines, penalties and forfeitures levied under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; interest accrued on funds under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and excise taxes paid on small engine fuels through the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Fund.”

Examples of pending projects include:

* Colorado: San Luis Valley Rio Grande Initiative; received a grant of $1 million, with matching funds of $2.1 million to “protect 25,000 acres of riparian corridor along the Rio Grande River at its headwaters in Colorado.”

* Iowa: Iowa River Corridor Wetland Initiative; received a grant of $1 million, with matching funds of $2.9 million, and another $1 million in nonmatching funds to “enhance three large wetland complexes and three river floodplain corridor areas.”

* Massachusetts: the Great Marsh, in Essex County; received a grant of $1 million, with matching funds of $1.8 million, and nonmatching funds of $2 million to “secure and restore habitat for more than 70 species of waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds, as well as an additional 90 species of birds that use the diverse habitat types in this area.”

Further information on the location of each project, the amount received, partners and project details is available at the NAWCA website.

A great variety of partners involved with these projects include Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, local cities and towns, energy companies, state conservation agencies, local land trusts, foundations, and private landowners. Partners provide matching funds.

The Commission approved an additional $4.1 million to add more than 4,400 acres to seven national wildlife refuges. The wildlife refuges that will acquire wetland habitat for migratory birds and other flora and fauna, include:

* Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in St. Bernard and Orleans Parishes, Louisiana – acquire 2,027 acres of wetland habitat.

* Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, Georgetown, Marion and Horry Counties, South Carolina – acquire 1,292 acres, primarily for American Black Duck habitat.

* Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Seneca County, New York – acquire 64 acres of waterfowl habitat.

* In New Hampshire, the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Mohawk River – acquire 108 acres; Pondicherry Divisions, Coos County, acquire 105 acres. The American Black Duck is also the focus of these two projects.

* Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Liberty County, Texas – acquire 924 acres of wetland habitats to benefit migratory, wintering, and breeding waterfowl.

* Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Jackson, Prairie, Woodruff and Monroe Counties, Arkansas – acquire 24 acres of areas used as waterfowl habitat in the winter. * Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Wapato Lake Unit, Washington and Yamhill Counties, Oregon – acquire 15 acres to manage for the Tundra Swan.

The one billionth dollar from the NAWCA program was recently expended. The funds were used to purchase a 133-acre permanent conservation easement on private grasslands in Campbell County, north-central South Dakota.

“At this milestone, we mark a major bird conservation achievement, and we acknowledge the tremendous challenges that climate change and crop conversion pose for the long-term productivity of the Prairie Pothole Region and other nationally-significant migratory bird habitat,” said Stephen Guertin, Regional Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region, which includes South Dakota. “Building on the success of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, the Small Wetlands Program, and other efforts, the Service will promote landscape-level planning, strategic investments of conservation dollars and resources, and strong public-private partnerships to ensure the well-being of the nation’s migratory bird populations.”

Grants sponsored by this project are awarded each year, and based on a competitive basis, with projects selected by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, a seven-member commission. Matching funds must be an integral part of the project proposal.

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