TWRA cuts $250,000 from waterfowl programs

TWRA cuts $250,000 from waterfowl programs

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2008 8:42 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn., June 26, 2008 – Duck season is still months away, but Tennessee’s waterfowl are under siege by way of budget cuts to the state’s waterfowl programs. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission met June 18, cutting their 2008-09 budget by $4.5 million. Of that, $500,000 came from Wildlife Division programs, half of which was waterfowl related. Commissioners will meet August 20-21 to finalize the budget cuts. “It’s not too late to change this. We urge Tennessee sportsmen to contact their commissioners and ask them to reinstate funding for Tennessee’s waterfowl programs,” said Ross Melinchuk, Director of Public Policy for DU’s Southern Regional Office. “Hunters and anglers fund TWRA through license purchases and boating registrations. Budget cuts are never popular, but it’s important to spread these cuts evenly across all programs. If you cut waterfowl programs disproportionately, you risk hurting the Tennessee duck hunter, your most ardent supporter.” Among the cuts are $154,000 for Ducks Unlimited’s habitat conservation activities on the Canadian breeding grounds where two-thirds of Tennessee’s waterfowl originate. “That’s the most significant aspect of this in my opinion,” said Ron Fox, Assistant Executive Director of TWRA. “The money that we were spending through DU’s Canadian program was being placed at the only spot that we could affect habitat that contributes waterfowl to Tennessee. A Ducks Unlimited cut is something that, if it affects their ability to deliver programs on breeding grounds, the impact will be long-term. It might not be something you see the first year, but it will eventually affect waterfowl migrating through Tennessee.” Melinchuk says the cut will affect Ducks Unlimited’s ability to deliver programs on the breeding grounds. “Ducks Unlimited matched that $154,000 more than five times with grants and contributions from other partners – we do it every year. Loss of TWRA’s very generous contribution equates into an $820,000 cut in on-the-ground conservation this year alone. Again, this is work that would have been done on the breeding grounds where Tennessee’s ducks come from, so unfortunately waterfowl and waterfowl hunters in Tennessee will be affected.” Other in-state waterfowl programs slated for budget cuts include the wood duck box program, and the spring Canada goose survey. TWRA did retain $40,000 in the budget for Ducks Unlimited’s Tennessee Partner’s Program, which helps fund conservation work on private lands across Tennessee. “State waterfowl programs are critical to ensuring that we have quality habitat for waterfowl, wildlife and hunters to enjoy,” said Melinchuk. “Waterfowl and other wildlife depend upon this habitat, which exists because hunters and anglers pay for it.” Duck stamp sales have raised more than $1.6 million in Tennessee alone since the federal duck stamp program started in 1934. That doesn’t include money spent on licenses, trips and equipment. In fact, migratory bird hunters spend more per day on hunting trips than any other hunter, according to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. In 2006, migratory bird hunters in Tennessee spent more than $33 million on trips and equipment. “We understand that times are increasingly tight for many agencies and organizations,” Melinchuk said. “Cutting nearly eight percent of the entire TWRA budget is difficult, and we don’t envy the agonizing decisions they have to make. Tennessee waterfowl hunters need to understand the negative impact these cuts are going to have on their sport and the habitat upon which these birds depend. Our concern is that there seems to be disproportionate cuts in waterfowl-related programs. We hope that the Commission will consider reinstating at least one-half of this funding.” Ducks Unlimited is asking Tenn. sportsmen to Contact their TWRA commissioners today to voice their opinion about this issue. With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands – nature’s most productive ecosystem – and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year. Posted 6.30.08

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