According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s preliminary report from its annual Waterfowl
Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, 41 million ducks
nested in over 1.3 million square miles of Canada and the United
States, including Alaska this year, which is 14 percent more
than in 2006 and 24 percent more than the average population
from 1955 to 2006.
Wetland habitat conditions for ducks and
other waterfowl were the same or slightly better than last year.
Many species of ducks are more populous
than last year, while at least two declined. Canvasbacks, mallards,
blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwall, redheads and wigeons
are doing better than they have on average since 1955.
Scaups’ numbers are down 33 percent from the long-term average
and pintailed ducks are down 19 percent.
The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat
Survey, done by scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and the Canadian Wildlife Service, samples the continent’s
most important nesting grounds.
Meanwhile, following its annual May waterfowl
survey, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources came up with
a different view of the duck population in its state, with total
duck populations down by about six percent, although the number
of breeding mallards had increased 51 percent over last year.
Washington D.C. — During late spring and early summer both
the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed the 2007
Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by large margins. Among
many other items, WRDA funds and authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers
to double the length of some locks on the Upper Mississippi and
expand environmental restoration projects. WRDA is supposed to
be reauthorized every two years, but Congress last approved it
Proponents of the Ecosystem Sustainability
Program for the Upper Mississippi River System, formerly known
as the Navigation Study of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois
Waterway (Nav Study) are especially pleased, because this is the
closest it has come to passage.
The initial price tag of $3.7 billion would
include the cost of seven new 1,200-foot locks and $1.7 billion
for habitat restoration. The economic value of building new locks
has been debated since the early days of the study, but is supported
by shipping and agriculture interests.
In addition, this WRDA calls for the Secretary
of the Army to recommend a framework for long-term wetlands protection,
and conservation and restoration in coastal Louisiana, another
very costly project.
At least one critic has warned that the
2007 WRDA is loaded with pork-barrel earmarks. Dr. Ronald D. Utt,
in a memo for the Heritage Foundation, which appears on its web
site, warns that wealthy and influential coastal beachfront
property owners have lobbied successfully to get big dollar beach
replenishment projects added as earmarks. He cites $101 million
for beach replenishment at Ocean City, Sea Isle City, and contiguous
New Jersey seashore resorts and $65 million for a Lido Key Beach,
Florida, replenishment project.
The House and Senate versions of the bills
were in conference committee over the summer to reconcile differences
between them. When the conference committee completes its work,
the bill will head to President Bush’s desk for final approval.
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