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)

Addressing the Problem with Powerlines

From Subactive_Photo via Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing

From Subactive_Photo via Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing

There are nearly 37 million people in California, a tremendous amount of people who consume a stunning amount water and require a great deal of electricity. Usually around the office, we worry about water, but lately, power has been at the forefront of our conversation.

We use a lot of power in Northern CA, particularly in the Bay Area. This means as the population expands and there’s a requirement for even more power, more electricity  has to be carried somehow into our metropolitan areas.

Those gigantic transmission towers and lines are an eyesore however, and require a decent sized bit of land. The construction of a new transmission route is inevitable. It will happen. All the same, it’s a bad idea to point at the map and say, “No worries. There’s some open land right here. We’ll run it there.”  Which is pretty much what happened with the current proposal.

The current proposed routes of the California Transmission Project cut through District 10, Sutter National Refuge, Butte Sink, Yolo Wildlife Area, Stones Lake National Wildlife Area and a tremendous amount of other public and private wetlands.  See the map for more details. Some of this land is protected by conservation easements, some of it has seen the benefits of millions of taxpayers dollars and restoration work.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we weren’t talking about degrading a portion of the 250,000 acres remaining in a state that once boasted 3 to 5 million acres of wetlands which played host to 50 million waterfowl. We can’t afford to lose habitat.

But they’re just powerlines, so is there a problem?  Waterfowl experts feel that powerlines can impact larger birds, especially in foggy conditions when the birds may be killed by running into them. The real problem is that smaller waterfowl steer clear of habitat around the lines, giving the towers a berth of .2 to .5 miles, rendering a swath of the wetlands useless for conservation purposes.

No route is ultimately going to be a perfect solution, but it would be fantastic if the habitat were considered when making the final decision. Fortunately, there is some time for public opinions and comments to be considered.

Waterfowl hunters and conservationists worried about losing crucial habitat in the Central Valley need to write a letter before MAY 31st and send it to:

Mr. David Young

Western Area Power Admin

114 Parkshore Dr.

Folsom, CA 95630

Want more info? Look athe Western Area Power Adminstration’s website for further maps and details.