Waterfowl Program biologists coordinate all aspects of the NAWMP for LDWF. This is an international wetlands/waterfowl restoration plan that uses partnerships with other government agencies, private landowners, and corporations to generate non-department funding sources to restore, protect, purchase and enhance wetland habitat on public and private lands in Louisiana and nationwide. Some of the activities under the NAWMP include the following:
DU MARSH and Duck Stamp Programs
Program personnel coordinate DU's MARSH (Matching Aid to Restore State Habitat). This is a reimbursement program that provides funding annually for development and restoration of wetland habitat on LDWF WMAs and Refuges. From 1985-2002 more than $1.5 million in grants were expended from the MARSH account on 18 WMAs and Refuges. They assist with the state duck stamp program which generates $500,000 annually for wetlands work and acquisition within the state. They also develop wetland project proposals in conjunction with regional Wildlife Division and DU biologists and engineers.
Wetlands Reserve Program and Louisiana Waterfowl Project
A waterfowl biologist serves as Department representative on the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) Technical Subcommittee. The WRP is a feature of the 1995 Farm Bill. It was initially geared toward reforestation of previously cleared and farmed wetlands. Today, restoration of hydrology is an extremely important aspect of the program. Over 200,000 acres in Louisiana have been scheduled for reforestation to bottomland hardwoods and/or hydrology restored to date. WRP sites as of April 2003 can be seen at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp/State_Maps_Stats/2003_Maps/louisiana.pdf. Wildlife Division regional biologists developed projects on 2 WMAs that resulted in LDWF receiving more than $500,000 through the WRP during the past 3 years. The WRP Subcommittee is responsible for developing habitat criteria and ranking criteria for proposals in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Waterfowl Project is conducted in cooperation with DU, the NRCS, oil and pipeline companies and private landowners. Water control structures are designed from used gas pipelines. Technical assistance and wetland management plans are provided to the private sector to create seasonal wetlands that benefit a wide range of wildlife. Currently, 35,000 acres of wetlands are enrolled in 10 to 15 year agreements in 20 parishes under this program. As a result of observed benefits, other local landowners in some areas are developing their own projects. A waterfowl biologist also represents the Department on the Louisiana Waterfowl Project Committee.
North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
Program personnel develop and evaluate grant applications to this federal program to obtain grant funds to be used for wetlands acquisition and development projects on public lands. NAWCA grants require at least a $1 in non-federal matching funds for each $1 of grant funds requested. This is a major mechanism for generating conservation partnerships vital to the success of the NAWMP. In recent years, LDWF has partnered with NAWCA, DU, NRCS, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Exxon, local conservation organizations, the Walker Foundation, White Lake Foundation, and Richard King Mellon Foundation to acquire wetland habitats of value to waterfowl and other wetland birds as well as implement projects on 6 WMAs.
Louisiana has 2 active joint ventures of the NAWMP: the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture (LMV) and the Gulf Coast Joint Venture (GC). Each joint venture has different goals and habitat issues that are addressed by NAWCA projects. Most of these restoration projects in the LMV involve a combination of reforestation to bottomland hardwoods and water control capabilities that permit precise water level management for wintering waterfowl. Once projects are completed specific management plans are developed to maintain wetland management units at maximum production. Program personnel work extensively with regional Wildlife Division biologists and specialists in implementing and evaluating wetland management practices on WMAs. The GC, on the other hand, is dominated by coastal marshes, prairies, and agricultural land, so projects focus on reducing salinity or wave energy to enhance submerged aquatic vegetation, re-establishing water-control to manage marshes for better production of seed-producing annuals, or creating capabilities to flood/manage agricultural areas for making winter food available for waterfowl.