How NAWCA changed wetland conservation — Ducks Unlimited Canada
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Policy, Wetlands

How the face of wetland conservation changed 25 years ago

Thanks to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the face of wetland conservation in North America has changed… to the benefit of ducks.

May 05, 2014
A trio of green-winged teals flies over a wetland.
A trio of green-winged teals flies over a wetland. © DUC

That’s when conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) were given the financial means to deliver results that would make a difference well into the future, thanks to the passage of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) in the United States.

By 1989, years of drought had driven many duck populations well below their long-term averages. Wetlands across the continent were disappearing fast – particularly on the breeding grounds of Prairie Canada. However, a new way of thinking about continental waterfowl conservation was planting the seeds of positive change. Three years earlier, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) was established. It recognized that international co-operation between governments, citizens, agencies and private organizations was the only way to ensure a sustainable future for continental waterfowl populations.

The NAWCA became the funding arm for NAWMP activities by providing grants for organizations like DUC to carry out wetland conservation projects in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. However, the key to NAWCA’s success has been the expectation that these grants be matched. This public/private cost sharing has provided strong incentives for conservationists to form partnerships and work collaboratively to generate matching funds needed to secure NAWCA dollars.

Results of the North American Wetland Conservation Act

The results have been outstanding. Through late 2013, $1.24 billion in federal NAWCA funding has flowed to wetland projects across North America and leveraged over $3.4 billion in contributions from partners. In Canada, 145 partners have contributed to the conservation of more than 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares).

There’s no doubt that North America’s landscape would look very different if it wasn’t for NAWCA.

So, too, would DUC’s history.

By continuing to work with other conservationists to grow the strength and breadth of these partnerships, DUC looks forward to many more productive years of wetland conservation thanks to the continued support for the NAWCA.