Federal NAWCA grant supports long-term wetland conservation

GREENVILLE, North Carolina Ducks Unlimited and partners received a $999,067 North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant for protection and enhancement of 3,812 acres of coastal wetlands in east-central North Carolina. Partners contributed over $2.2 million in matching funds toward the federal grant.
‘This project focuses on enhancing emergent estuarine habitat, a decreasing wetland type,’ said Craig LeSchack, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation programs for North Carolina. ‘These wetlands provide feeding habitat for many wetland-dependent species including migrating and wintering waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway, neotropical migrants and other migratory and non-migratory waterbirds.’

The project sites are located within the Goose Creek Game Lands, which provide some of the most important managed habitat under state ownership for northern pintails and American black ducks. In addition, the area is at the southern end of the breeding range for black ducks, which nest on the Game Lands.

‘We plan to protect and enhance 3,812 acres of wetlands and their associated buffers,’ LeSchack said. ‘As part of this project, 2,764 acres will be purchased and added to the Goose Creek Game Lands and 1,048 acres of existing wetlands and associated habitats will be enhanced.

This grant is an important part of ongoing conservation efforts in coastal North Carolina. Intensive management of the remaining emergent estuarine marshes is required to maintain wildlife populations and communities. Marsh impoundments like those included in this project on Pamlico Point, Campbell’s Creek, and Swan Creek offer critical habitat for waterfowl and other species.

‘Like all of our projects, the partners involved in the Neuse-Pamlico project made it possible,’ LeSchack said. Ducks Unlimited is partnering with North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and Neuse River Investments, LLC to deliver the project.

‘This is a unique project because it provides a solution to protecting the habitat values and management capabilities of several of a limited number of emergent estuarine marsh impoundments along the North Carolina Coast,’ said Tommy Hughes, Supervising Wildlife Biologist-Coastal Region Public Lands with NCWRC.

The proposal area also ties into current wetland conservation efforts funded by a previous NAWCA grant, thus providing landscape-scale wetland conservation.

‘This proposal will aid in linking these areas by enhancing a valuable and distinct emergent estuarine habitat system,’ Hughes said.

In Washington, D.C., Ducks Unlimited’s governmental affairs staff works with Congress to garner support for annual funding of NAWCA. To date, NAWCA has helped fund more than 1,800 wetland projects on 23 million acres in all 50 states, every province of Canada, and areas in Mexico. Thousands of partners, including private landowners, corporations and state governments have worked together to conserve wildlife habitat through NAWCA grants.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization having conserved over 12 million acres. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands ‘ natures’ most productive ecosystem ‘ and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.