Senate Committee Approves Important Waterfowl and Wetlands Measures (Really)

Hooray for the Senate! Both parties!

No, that's not a mistake. I know this space spends more time slapping Congress in the face rather than on the back. But the entire membership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee deserves a big fat "Attaboy!" for sending three important wetlands and waterfowl conservation measures to the chamber's floor without opposition. They are:

- S. 2282, which reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) through 2017.

As Ducks Unlimited points out, since 1989 NAWCA has leverage $1 billion in federal grants with $3 billion in matching and non-matching fund to conserve more than 25 million acres of habitat on the continent. NAWCA has been a prime target of GOP budget cutters in the House even to the point of elimination for almost two years. But this bi-partisan support from the Senate gives it muscle to survive.

- S. 2156, which would move authority over the price of ducks stamps from Congress to the Secretary of Interior. This would clear the way for a fee raise from the $15 it has been since 1991 to the $25 that sportsmen's groups have urged for several years. Changes would have to be made in consultation with the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, consisting of the secretaries of Interior, Agriculture the head of the EPA, and two members each from the Senate and the House.

Ducks stamp funds have been the most effective in protecting waterfowl habitat because 98 percent of each dollar goes to purchasing fee title to prime habitat. Since its inception 77 years ago, 5.3 million acres of waterfowl lands have been set aside permanently. Sportsmen have long supported this fee hike because the steady increase in the cost of land has reduced the purchasing power of duck stamps to 36 percent of what it was 20 years ago.

Opposition to the increase has come mainly from congresspeople who are opposed either to any increase in federal fees (even if those who pay the fee approve) and others who oppose public ownership of lands.

While this committee action is seen as a big step in the right direction, sportsmen are urged to contact their senators and House members to urge support of final passage.

- S. 2071, which would make online purchase of duck stamps a permanent option. Physical stamps would still be available, but using today's technology would make it even easier for sportsmen to stay legal.

It's all good. Three cheers for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.