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Delta Waterfowl Opposes Proposals To Kill Canadian Duck Stamp

Delta Waterfowl has gone on record in opposition to two proposals by Environment Canada (EC) that would potentially end the Canadian duck stamp program.

Environment Canada recently posted a "consultation document" proposing three possible outcomes for Canada's duck stamp. The first, which is supported by Delta, is to leave the program in the hands of Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC), an independent, non-profit organization that has managed duck stamp dollars since 1984.

Under the other two proposals, resident and nonresident waterfowl hunters would continue to pay a fee, but the stamp would be eliminated and WHC would likely cease operations.

Under the first of those options, fees collected from hunters would be given to a non-government organization for delivery. The second option calls for the fees to be directed to EC's "protected areas" system, many of which are bird sanctuaries where hunting is banned.

In a letter to Environment Canada, Delta President Rob Olson encouraged Minister of the Environment John Baird to leave the Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp program intact.

"We strongly believe that waterfowl hunters, migratory birds and the habitats they depend upon would be best served by continuing the present arrangements with WHC," Olson wrote. "We believe it is premature to consider alternative methods of fund distribution."

Olson says diverting the duck hunters' money to protected areas would be unfair because many of these areas are not open to public hunting. He also objects to the proposal that involves distributing the money to non-government conservation organizations, explaining that, "Delta has lost confidence in the ability of the traditional NGO model to provide adequate levels of accountability and to deliver of programs that benefit ducks and duck hunters. We're increasingly concerned about what we see as a mission drift away from waterfowl interests."

Elaborating on those concerns, Olson said, "The traditional model has failed to reduce the wetland-loss rate across prairie Canada, there's very little permanent protection of key waterfowl habitat and no data to suggest more than a minimal impact on duck production. Delta has been fighting for a new management approach that puts the focus back on ducks."

Besides, he adds, WHC is already working with numerous agencies and organizations. "The stamp program has served as a significant bridge between conservation interests (that) keeps decisions about allocations of duck stamp dollars out of the hands of a few large corporate conservation interests."

"Our strength is that we can do things other groups can't," says WHC President David Brackett, who for 11 years was director general of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

"We support all the non-government agencies," Brackett says. "If the fees go to a non-government organization, you'll have groups like Delta, Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Nature Conservancy of Canada competing for these dollars. That's why WHC was formed in the first place—we don't compete with the NGOs.

"We're like venture capitalists who distribute the money where it will do the most good from the duck hunter's point of view," he added.

Brackett says he's also concerned about using the fees for Canada's protected areas, saying it's unfair to use fees generated by hunters to fund non-hunting areas.

Since 1984, WHC has invested $52 million in habitat conservation, restoration and enhancement, especially in wetlands and wetland-associated species. About $32 million was generated by duck stamp sales.

In the most recent year, 40 percent of WHC grants went to North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) partners, including the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation, Delta Waterfowl's partner on Adopt a Pothole, the largest wetland easement program in Canada.

WHC's board recently announced a provisional $100,000 grant for Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS), a habitat program jointly launched by Delta Waterfowl and Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), for a demonstration project on the Vermillion River in Alberta.

Brackett says the consultation process is a review that, given the cost of the program, was probably over-due, and he is hopeful that WHC will be left intact.

Environment Canada has posted the "consultation document" on its web site at:
www.cws-scf.ec.gc.ca/legislations/tim-st_con/consult_e.cfm

WHC has posted a response to the "consultation document" here (PDF):
www.whc.org/EN/about/documents/WHC_Response_EC_Consultation_Paper.pdf

Olson encourages Canadian hunters to contact their Members of Parliament to voice their support for WHC, and to copy Environment Minister John Baird at John.Baird@ec.gc.ca. Email addresses for MPs are available at webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/mainMPsCompleteList.aspx.