20080415_DUGreenhorizontalBRAINERD, Minnesota –Ducks Unlimited presented conservation awards to recognize individuals and organizations for their commitment to improve Minnesota’s wetland and waterfowl resources at DU’s annual Minnesota state convention in Brainerd this weekend.

The 2010 DU Minnesota conservation awards announced were:

  • • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – Partner of the Year
  • • Kevin Lines, Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources – Professional of the Year
  • • Minnesota Farmers Union – Public Policy Champion of the Year

“These award recipients have made tremendous and distinctive contributions to improve North America’s waterfowl resource” said Ryan Heiniger, director of conservation for Minnesota and Iowa.

The Partner of the Year Award was presented to Minnesota DNR Fish and Wildlife Division Director Dave Schad. Other DNR staff in attendance at the convention included Steve Cordts, waterfowl biologist, and Nicole Hansel Welch, shallow lakes program coordinator. DU’s partnership with the Minnesota DNR began in 1972 when the DNR made a $15,000 contribution for habitat work in Canada. This partnership continues, and Minnesota surpassed the $1 million mark in 2009 for its total contributions to breeding habitat work in Canada.

“The Saskatchewan River Delta is in the heart of the boreal breeding range for scaup, ring-necked ducks and canvasbacks, all ducks that are very important to Minnesota hunters,” Schad said. “The $1 million sent there and the additional matching funds those contributions have generated have been good investments for the state.”

In addition to support for DU conservation work in Canada, DU and DNR have also forged a strong partnership in Minnesota. Beginning with the enhancement of the 81-acre Pelican Creek wetland in Grant County in 1984, DU and DNR have partnered to complete dozens of major wetland projects throughout the state, including the enhancement of 9,300-acre Swan Lake in Nicollet County, 425-acre Lake Maria in Murray County, 2,700 acre Big Rice Lake in Cass County, 895-acre Buffalo Lake in Waseca County, 1,875-acre Geneva Lake in Freeborn County and approximately 125 wild rice lakes in northern Minnesota. To date, the DU-DNR partnership has restored, protected and enhanced more than 93,000 acres across the state and is poised to do even more with a recent recommendation of funding from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

“This award recognizes the tremendous commitment the DNR has made and is continuing to make to address the state’s wetland and waterfowl issues,” Heiniger said. “For example, five shallow lakes were recently designated by Commissioner Holsten, including Anka, Jennie, Curtis, Round and Smith. This represents a dramatic increase and is a reflection of the DNR’s commitment to accelerating shallow lake enhancement and management in Minnesota.”

The Professional of the Year was presented to Kevin Lines, who works as the conservation easement section manager for the Board of Water and Soil Resources. In this role, he has the responsibility to restore, manage and enforce more than 5,000 easements totaling 193,000 acres. Lines has worked for BWSR since 2000 and started his career with the DNR in 1975 where he held several positions including area wildlife supervisor, farmland wildlife program leader and lake designation coordinator. His many accomplishments include the monumental task of enrolling 100,000 acres into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in the Minnesota River valley.

“Kevin Lines is a tireless champion for the permanent protection of wetlands and the need to provide attractive habitat programs to farmers and other landowners in Minnesota,” Heiniger said. “Kevin has demonstrated leadership throughout his 35-year career that has been devoted to conservation and natural resources.”

The award was presented to Lines largely in recognition of his efforts to help lead the implementation of the Reinvest in Minnesota/Wetlands Reserve Program Partnership. During the last two years, the partnership has invested $28.2 million of state funds, which has leveraged $45 million in federal funds that, together, has enrolled 22,836 acres in perpetual easements.

“Kevin Lines is famous for saying that the RIM/WRP is the premier private lands program in the nation, and his passion is a driving force and primary reason why this program is successful,” Heiniger said.

The Public Policy Champion of the Year award was presented to Minnesota Farmers Union and their president Doug Peterson to recognize their support and collaboration on several key legislative initiatives. As an ongoing priority, DU has been working hard to get changes made to the farm bill that would remove subsidies for the conversion of native prairie through “Sodsaver.”

DU and the Minnesota Farmers Union legislative priorities overlapped when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee started debating the Clean Water Restoration Act. This legislation is intended to clarify Congress’ intent to provide federal protection for wetlands after several Supreme Court cases weakened this protection leaving millions of acres at risk for destruction. Recognizing the introduced legislation was approaching an impasse, the National and Minnesota Farmers Union helped broker a compromise known as the Baucus-Klobuchar Amendment. This amendment brought additional clarity to which waters of the United States would be covered and was key to getting it to pass out of committee.

“While Congress must still pass this important piece of legislation, the actions by the MN Farmers Union remind us there is common ground between conservation and agriculture,” Heiniger said. “Ducks Unlimited very much appreciates the forward thinking of Doug, his staff and board to help identify areas of overlap and willingness to bring solutions oriented thinking to the discussion.”

Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13 million acres, thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.