By Christina Tarr

March in California is a great time to get out to see the migratory birds who winter here. The Central Valley reserves are full of Snow and Ross’s geese, White-faced Ibis, and Sandhill Cranes. San Francisco Bay is full of ducks soon taking off for the arctic, where they will breed and raise ducklings. The most recent excitement is a beautiful Harlequin Duck currently visiting the San Leandro marina, far from his normal range up the coast. Harlequin ducks like rough water, and ours must have liked this weekend’s hail.

Conservation of migratory birds (ducks, in this case) and the wetlands that support them is an ideal area of overlap with those we may not think of as allies: hunters and organizations that support hunting. It might surprise you to know that some of these organizations have been fighting for decades to preserve and repair the environment, and there are ways we can support their advocacy work.

One way to aid conservation efforts that you may never have heard of is to buy a Duck Stamp. No, it isn’t for sending mail: a Duck Stamp allows you to legally hunt ducks. You don’t want to hunt? That’s ok, you might want to buy one anyway, because for just $25 you can participate in one of the most successful conservation efforts in history. As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes:

98 percent of the purchase price goes directly to help acquire and protect wetland habitat and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Wetlands acquired with Duck Stamp dollars help purify water, aid in flood control, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities.

You can buy Duck Stamps at many sporting goods stores, national wildlife refuges, and on the USPS website

Does it seem unlikely that an organization of duck hunters would be an ally in bird conservation? The mission of Ducks Unlimited is habitat conservation, and on that issue they are a powerful ally. Read their info sheet on the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a grant-based conservation program that has conserved more than 33.4 million acres since 1989; learn about the money the NAWCA has brought to California herePlease contact your Members of Congress and ask them to support the NAWCA now: 

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act conserves North America’s waterfowl, fish and wildlife resources while producing a variety of environmental and economic benefits. Every federal dollar provided by NAWCA must be matched by at least one dollar from non-federal sources. Because the program is so effective, NAWCA funds are usually doubled or tripled at the local level. More than $1 billion in federal grants has been allocated for NAWCA projects – a figure that has leveraged more than $4 billion in contributions from partners. Please support NAWCA funding by including it in your appropriations request for Fiscal Year 2019.

Theodore Roosevelt was a famous hunter, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has the mission “to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.” They’re our ally in opposing the Trump administration’s undermining of the Clean Water Act, and in opposing the proposed transfer of public lands to the states. Use this information, adapted from the TRCP, to write or call your federal and state senators and representatives and your governor: 

My name is _______, and my zip code is _______. I’m an environmentalist [birder, hiker, outdoor enthusiast, etc.], and I value public lands for recreational use. I request that you actively pledge your support for America’s public lands legacy and reject efforts to transfer federal public lands to individual states.

States are simply not equipped to support the enormous costs associated with managing public lands. State ownership would result in the fire sale of public lands to billionaires and foreign companies, where millions of acres would be closed to public access and an American birthright would be lost.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.


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