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Delta Supports Clean Water Restoration Act; Hunters Urged to Contact Representatives

BISMARCK, N.D. - Delta Waterfowl President Rob Olson has a message for sportsmen and women concerned about the future of duck hunting: It's time to speak out - loudly, clearly and as soon as possible.

Olson urges Delta members and waterfowl hunters nationwide to contact their representatives in Congress in support of the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007, a bill that would protect millions of acres of small, isolated wetlands so critical for duck production.

"Prairie potholes are the engines that drive duck production," Olson says. "Small wetlands are the best source of nutrition nesting ducks require during the breeding season. If you want to produce ducks, you better protect temporary and seasonal wetlands. It's that simple.

"The Clean Water Act (CWA) has been protecting the wetlands critical for duck production since 1972," Olson says, "but the Clean Water Act has been put in jeopardy. That's why we're asking duck hunters to encourage their representatives to support this crucial legislation."

The Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 was introduced by Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan in an attempt to clarify Congress' intent when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972. That intent, unclear in the wake of 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings, recently took a murky turn for the worse when the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers issued a new "guidance" that effectively removed CWA protection of small, isolated wetlands, including prairie potholes.

If the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 is not passed, an estimated 20 million wetland acres nationwide could be in jeopardy. Without CWA protection, Swampbuster, a provision in the federal Farm Bill that applies to farmers who receive agricultural subsidies, becomes the only regulatory measure protecting small, duck-producing wetlands.

"Without the Clean Water Act, Swampbuster is our last line of defense, and Swampbuster is tenuous," says Olson.

According to Ron Reynolds of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck, the vast majority of breeding ducks in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of the Dakotas and northeast Montana settle in temporary, seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands less than one acre.

Reynolds says the U.S. portion of the prairie pothole region could lose 37 percent or more of its carrying capacity for breeding ducks if these isolated wetlands aren't protected. "That's a huge reduction," says Reynolds. "These types of small wetlands are the heartbeat of the duck world, and they sustain the breeding effort during the wet years."

George Vandel, assistant wildlife director for the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks and chairman of the Central Flyway Council, says the importance of saving temporary and seasonal wetlands for waterfowl cannot be overstated. "They're absolutely essential," he says. "If we lose Swampbuster, there will be a level of drainage we've never seen before."

Vandel worries about a worse-case scenario in which wetlands protections are stripped, coupled with the impending loss of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in the U.S. portion of the PPR. "It would be devastating for ducks and duck hunters," he says. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that."

Olson says the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 gives waterfowlers an opportunity to flex their muscles in the political arena. "Ducks hunters can make a difference by contacting their elected officials and telling them to support this legislation," he says. "We need all hands on deck. We encourage Delta members and other conservationists to contact their elected officials. The future of waterfowling hangs in the balance."

Olson says hunters can quickly and easily contact their members of Congress by visiting http://www.deltawaterfowl.org.

Editors: For more information, contact Delta Vice President John Devney at 888-987-3695.