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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today released its report on 2017 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Overall duck numbers in the survey area remain high. Total populations were estimated at 47.3 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is similar to last year’s estimate of 48.4 million and is 34 percent above the 1955-2016 long-term average. The projected mallard fall flight index is 12.9 million birds, similar to the 2016 estimate of 13.5 million.

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the Prairies and the Boreal Forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2017 breeding population survey were generally similar to last year with a few exceptions. The total pond estimate for the United States and Canada combined was 6.1 million, which is 22% above the 2016 estimate of 5.0 million and 17% above the long-term average of 5.2 million.

“The surveys indicate that wetland conditions and populations of most frequently harvested ducks remain above the long-term average, and for most species, populations were at or above those from last year,” said DU Chief Scientist Tom Moorman. “This is great news for waterfowlers who can now turn their attention to preparing habitat, tuning up dogs and relentlessly watching the weather forecasts for the onset of fall and winter weather that will push the birds on their annual southward migration.

“DU remains concerned about northern pintails and scaup in particular, as the survey information continues to indicate these two species remain below their long-term average populations. Both species have struggled to regain desired populations. We will continue to work with our many conservation partners to understand what drives populations of these two species. If science points to habitat limitations as contributing factors, we’ll rely on the science to develop conservation solutions to help restore populations of these birds.

“Hunters may notice in the report that mallards declined 11%, or about 1.3 million birds, from 2016.  The bulk of that appears to be related to drier conditions in the Canadian parklands region, where the surveys detected about 0.6 million fewer mallards. Overall, mallard populations remain in great shape, and FWS estimates the mallard fall flight will be similar to last year.

“Hunters should always remember that habitat and populations are going to vary over time, so we must keep focused on habitat conservation efforts over the long term. Ultimately, we need to maintain landscapes so that when precipitation and other conditions are right, the ducks will respond, produce more ducks and provide us all with a nice return on our conservation investments.”

Although most migratory game bird populations remain abundant, when and where birds will be encountered depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat and weather conditions, and other factors all influence local bird abundance, distribution, behavior and, ultimately, hunter success.

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting regulations. Individual states set their hunting seasons within a federal framework of season length, bag limits and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates and bag limits.

Species estimates are:

Mallards: 10.5 million, 11% lower than 2016 and 34% above LTA

Gadwall: 4.2 million, 13% above 2016 and 111% above LTA

American wigeon: 2.8 million, 19% below 2016 and 6% above LTA

Green-winged teal: 3.6 million, 16% below 2016 and 70% above LTA

Blue-winged teal: 7.9 million, 18% above 2016 and 57% above LTA

Northern shovelers: 4.4 million, 10% above 2016 and 69% above LTA

Northern pintails: 2.9 million, 10% above 2016 and 27% below LTA

Redheads: 1.1 million, 13% below 2016 and 55% above LTA

Canvasbacks: 0.7 million, similar to 2016 and 25% above LTA

Scaup: 4.4 million, 12% below 2016 and 13% below LTA

Black ducks (Eastern Survey Area): 0.5 million, similar to 2016 and 12% below LTA

*Long-term average

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at www.ducks.org/DuckNumbers.

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More than 650 outdoors companies and organizations sign on to letters calling for Gulf restoration

Washington, D.C., February 16, 2012—A group of more than 650 hunting, fishing and outdoor sporting businesses and organizations are sending two sign-on letters to Congress today with a clear message—restore the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf Coast, a vast complex of wildlife habitat that has faced high rates of landloss and suffered further degradation after the unprecedented 2010 oil spill. The letter comes at a critical time for Gulf restoration, as news reports indicate that BP is attempting this month to pay $20-$25 billion to settle with the Justice Department on all charges related to the spill.

The letters’ release was announced today, as outdoor equipment CEO’s and other representatives from the outdoor communities convened in the nation’s capital to urge members of Congress to move forward on the RESTORE Gulf Coast Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that ensures that fines from last year’s oil spill are used to help restore the Gulf ecosystem.

The first letter was authored by Vanishing Paradise, a project of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to unite sportsmen and women to restore Louisiana’s waterfowl and fishing habitats by reconnecting the Mississippi River with its wetlands. The letter asks Congress to secure significant investments for coastal restoration over the next five years, establish a new, dedicated funding stream for delta restoration and create a comprehensive restoration plan overseen by federal and state representatives with authority to implement the plan.

“In the spirit of Ding Darling, more than 650 hunting and fishing organizations and businesses from across the country are speaking out for the restoration of the Mississippi River Delta,” said Land Tawney, NWF’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “This collaboration ranges from local rod and gun clubs and mom and pop bait shops, to household names of national fishing and hunting manufacturers and sporting conservation organizations. We at Vanishing Paradise are truly humbled by the outpouring of nationwide support. Now it is time for Congress to take action and make the Gulf whole.”

“The delta has suffered years of damage and is being lost at an alarming rate—a football field of land disappears every hour,” Tawney continued. “The oil spill added insult to injury for this area and the entire Gulf region. Now is the time for Congress to pass the RESTORE Act, to ensure that oil spill fines reach the Gulf, where the latest round of damage was done.”

The second letter was signed by a group of 30 national conservation and outdoors organizations calling on Congress to move on the RESTORE Act, to move proactively toward using the Clean Water Act penalties assessed against BP and other companies toward comprehensive environmental and economic restoration of the Gulf.

A bipartisan poll this spring showed that 83 percent of voters nationwide support—and 69 percent strongly support—dedicating the Gulf oil spill penalties to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The poll also showed that an overwhelming majority of conservative voters favor this proposal, including 76 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of voters who agree with the Tea Party movement.

Nearly 500 miles—almost half—of the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that was contaminated by the Gulf oil spill remain oiled one year later, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

“Sportsmen around the Gulf and all those who call the region home want to see specific steps taken to restore the area’s natural resources,” said Geoff Mullins, senior director at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation partnership and Mobile, AL native. “It is a quality of life issue in numerous respects—from the recreational opportunities these resources offer to the significant dollars and jobs they bring to the local economies.”

“Restoring the Gulf and the Mississippi River Delta is an important issue for all sportsmen,” said Mike Iaconelli, 2003 Bassmasters Classic champion. “Those of us who hunt or fish need to step up and show we care about this issue. The disappearing Mississippi River Delta is not a problem we can’t fix, and Congress has a chance to do what’s right for the Gulf Coast. Now is the time for them to take action.”

“Recreational fishing contributes $41 billion dollars in economic output in the Gulf Coast region annually and supports more than 300,000 jobs. This economic engine will sputter if critical fisheries habitat is not better conserved and managed in the Gulf,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We urge Congress to act now to provide a much needed investment in business recovery and fisheries resources for the region.”

“Generations of Louisiana hunters and fishermen have enjoyed the rare bounty that Louisiana has offered from its rich estuary,” said Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, a fishing and waterfowl hunting lodge and guide service located near the mouth of the Mississippi River near Venice, Louisiana. “Every old timer has stories to tell of great times spent outdoors back in the day. Those great times are at the brink of being no more. Coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion have attacked our great state for 100 years, costing us 1883 square miles of precious wetlands thus far. Saltwater has intruded inland up to 80 miles killing even more freshwater marshes. If you want to pass on our great way of life to your grandchildren, the time to get involved is now.”

“All sportsmen in Louisiana need to get behind the restore act,” Lambert continued. “Please take the time to call your Senators for support of the RESTORE ACT. Better yet please get everyone you know outside of the state to call their legislatures. The Mississippi River built Louisiana and it is the only thing that can save our wetlands.”

“The Mississippi River Delta provides one of the most significant wintering habitats for waterfowl in North American and plays a starring role in our country’s rich waterfowl tradition,” said Mike Galloway, vice president of sales and marketing at Hard Core Brands International. “Hunting and fishing are also vital revenue streams for the nation’s economy. By passing the RESTORE Act and investing oil spill fines into restoring coastal wetlands, Congress is also investing in our national economy.”

“The comprehensive effects of the oil spill remain to be seen,” Tawney concluded. “Oil seeped into
marshes and wetlands that support many species of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife. We need Congress to act now to ensure that the penalties from the oil spill go toward making the delta and the Gulf region whole again, by restoring one of the most significant wintering areas for waterfowl in North America and an area that provides us with commercial and recreational fishing opportunities unlike any other.”

For more information, please visit http://www.vanishingparadise.org.

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A joint effort of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Ducks Unlimited (DU)—thanked a bipartisan coalition of Gulf Senators July 21, 2001 for cosponsoring the RESTORE Gulf Coast Act. The legislation ensures that fines from last year’s oil spill are used to help restore the Gulf ecosystem. The oil spill compounded already degraded habitats that support many species of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife.

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Richard Shelby (R-AL) are the original cosponsors of the bill, and are now joined by Sens. David Vitter, (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Thad Cochran, (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio, (R-FL) and Kay Bailey-Hutchison (R-TX). Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who was instrumental in securing the agreement among the senators, has pledged to consider this bill in her committee quickly.

“The Gulf region has suffered from years of degradation, and the oil spill added insult to injury,” Land Tawney, NWF’s Senior Manager for Sportsmen Leadership, said. “We look forward to working with the Gulf delegation, other members of Congress and the administration on passage of a bill that makes this critical ecosystem whole again. The Mississippi River Delta is a national treasure, important to hunters and anglers from all corners of our country. We applaud the efforts led by Senators Landrieu and Shelby to restore this ‘Sportsman’s Paradise.’”

A bipartisan poll this spring showed that 83 percent of voters nationwide support—and 69 percent strongly support—dedicating the Gulf oil spill penalties to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The poll also showed that an overwhelming majority of conservative voters favor this proposal, including 76 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of voters who agree with the Tea Party movement.

Nearly 500 miles – almost half – of the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that was contaminated by the Gulf oil spill remain oiled one year later, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

“Coastal Louisiana is one of the most significant wintering areas for waterfowl in North America and plays an important role in our nation’s rich waterfowling tradition,” DU’s Director of Public Policy Barton James said. “Hunting and fishing are vital streams of revenue for our nation’s economy. By investing in coastal wetlands, we are also investing in our economy.”

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