The Death of North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants?

View at the Office (Napa Plant Site)
View at the Office (Napa Plant Site)

Current suggested budget cuts on Capitol Hill would eliminate funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) bringing annual funding ($46 million in 2010) to ZERO.

 I’ll preface here… the budget needs to be cut. We are spending too much money and not enough taxes are coming in to cover our voracious need to get to the next better place. We will always need balance. There will always be a sweetheart with whom you will need to spend less time or have to leave out in the rain. And there is much to scream about being cut from the budget right now, but humor me for a moment. Let me tell you why my pet project should be protected.

The North American Wetlands Act was created to save the wet and wild spaces in America. Wet and Wild. This sounds sexy and it is. Fish need water. Ducks need water. And our children need the water which is filtered through the wetlands– the kidneys of our renewable resources. The best drinking water is utilized, muliplied and sifted through a place so perfect and pristine that you’ll need waders to even get a brief glimpse of its secrets.

And your children are welcome to the drinking water. I simply want to be in waders, waist-deep in paradise. Wetlands are both our health and our leisure. Either way, no organism lives without kidneys. It’s impossible. Yet we’ve lost 96% of our historic wetlands in California. We’re drinking the dregs of what was once a spectacular vintage.

Since the conception of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) in 1989 more than 1,600 NAWCA projects have contributed to the conservation of more than 25 million acres of habitat across North America. That’s about the size of Virginia or Kentucky. If all you know is California (like me) — there are 101 million acres in California. NAWCA has been responsible for the conservation of a piece of land about a quarter of the size of this state. This is a lot of something when you’re in a place where you basically have nothing …

There is more to NAWCA than this though. When I stepped into a position at Ducks Unlimited fundraising, I knew I was with the right organization. I knew what DU did for wetlands and waterfowl and that they had been consistently science-based and successful in their work since 1937. What I had no idea of –and what constantly amazes me is what a complex partnership of careful orchestration the renewal and protection of wetlands actually requires. NAWCA isn’t just a chunk of change being doled out by the government. It is the granting arm of the Joint Ventures, cohorts of conservation groups organized geographically and all following an agreed upon plan for rejuventating wetlands systems that can support the most diverse group of species possible, including humans. If you want funds to do wetlands work from NAWCA, you better be making the most positive impact possible or you don’t make the cut.

Conaway Ranch

Conaway Ranch

Speaking to this as a fundraiser, there’s another component to this that makes for incredible forward motion. Every federal dollar MUST BE MATCHED by at least one private dollar in donations. One dollar of NAWCA money may mean $8 for me in funding work on the ground. Who wouldn’t find it more appealing to give if giving means your dollar is stretched and incredibly valuable. Not to mention how very expensive it is to do dirt work in California…

Which also leads me to this point… NAWCA means jobs. This flow of philanthropic dollars helps contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and support more than 20,000 jobs. And I don’t mean just here at DU. We are a group of scientists, biologists, engineers and GIS specialists with only mimimal adminstration support. When we do construction, it’s contracted out. Hiring equipment, moving dirt, doing the on-the-ground work is handed over to the local economy from those dollars. DU runs a lean operation of specialists. We don’t own equipment or have construction staff in-house. We do the permiting, engineering, check the science and catalyze. Money invested here is money invested locally.

And all of this sounds very analtyical, thought-provoking and relevant. It’s true of course, the important things that NAWCA makes possible. If you were to corner me though, I would say that I’ve lost too much already, that every piece of California that has its wilderness cracked or smashed by concrete is one more blow to my already mostly-broken heart. We are supporting 12% of historical duck numbers on a mere 4% of historical habitat. Something is going to give. Don’t let it be NAWCA. You need wetlands and ducks need you.

Read more here and see how you can make your opinion heard.

In Wilton (photo by Rob Diebold)

In Wilton (photo by Rob Diebold)

Little Falcon – Big Water

A few of my adventures this season were on big water. Not successful adventures, mind you, but adventures just the same. I had the pleasure of being invited to a few clubs to hunt on “off” days and accepted knowing my chances of success would likely be slim. Still I’m happy to give folks a look at falconry if I can, knowing that just being invited is an honor. As my friend Joe O. notes, sometimes its better that newbies to falconry see that it’s not so easy as it looks when everything comes together. So maybe its not so bad to come home with nothing in the bag.

Big water means big challenges for a falcon. Challenge one being getting waterfowl off the safety of the water in the first place. Challenge two that of logistics. A 450 gram falcon cannot carry a 1000 gram duck to dry ground. The duck must be struck somewhere that allows the hunt to end on dry or at least dry-ish land. And believe me, the ducks know this.

Granted, big water isn’t impossible by any means, I’m just not well equipped to make a successful hunt happen. This didn’t stop me from trying a few times, although the sheer possibily at a gun club thins my  blood a bit. There will always be a part of me that finds believing a falcon is bound to me, even in some small way, unfathomable. I cannot imagine why he would wish to return and position himself above me when thousands of acres of waterfowl sprawl beneath his wings. At Stillbow though, he did.

Anakin was near 800 feet on a beautiful clear morning near Los Banos when he stooped a raft of rising shovelers. Hopefully B. got a great view of a beautiful stoop.  It wasn’t enough for me. I called him down and relocated, lowering myself to setting the peregrine up for a coot mugging . I thought he deserved to catch something…  even if it wasn’t pretty.

Stillbow on the other hand, was beautiful.  Places rich in history always captivate me and although guns clubs generally aren’t so strict about women not being present these days,  I felt like I was getting to peek in the boys lockerroom, take a guess at the shenanigans that would never happen with me present. I like the idea of there being “boys only” places, I suppose I like the idea of snooping anywhere I’m not really allowed. Check out the video I found on YouTube and snoop a bit yourself.

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