March 28, 2024

Van Hollen Joins Heinrich, Kennedy in Introduction of Bipartisan Legislation to Restore Wetlands and Migratory Bird Habitat

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and 10 Senate colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) through 2028. The legislation would also increase authorized annual funding for the program to $65 million. 

NAWCA was originally enacted in 1989 to provide federal matching grants —in partnership with funding from state and local governments, private industry, and non-profit organizations—to projects that conserve North America’s wetlands, waterfowl, and wildlife.  

“The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has been essential to supporting our partners on the ground who work to protect wetlands and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Reauthorizing these important programs will not only support the health of our environment but also our local economy, recreation, and tourism,” said Senator Van Hollen

“We owe it to our kids and grandkids to ensure they can inherit the full breadth of American wildlife and the wetlands that sustain them,” said Senator Heinrich. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to bolster our nation’s most successful wetlands restoration program. By reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, this legislation will improve access to clean drinking water, invest in our thriving multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation economy, and conserve New Mexico’s wildlife and the habitats they depend on for future generations.” 

“Louisiana’s wetlands are a big part of our state’s outdoor sportsman culture and geographical beauty. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is an important step to preserve our wildlife and protect our environment’s natural defense system,” said Senator Kennedy

Wetlands secure freshwater supplies, recharge aquifers, and mitigate soil erosion and flooding. In addition, waterfowl, migratory birds, fish, and other wildlife that depend on wetlands support multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and photography. NAWCA funding has been critical to acquiring, restoring, and enhancing this habitat in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico. In total, more than 3,300 NAWCA projects have contributed to the conservation and restoration of more than 32 million acres of habitat all across North America. 

NAWCA has provided a great return on investment, generating, on average, two additional dollars for every federal dollar. Over the program’s history, federal grants totaling more than $2.1 billion have spurred $4.3 billion for NAWCA projects through matching funds. NAWCA funds have also supported an average of 7,500 jobs each year and more than $5 billion in annual economic activity. 

The legislation was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (D-N.C.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).  

“Conservation is a team effort. We all must participate for it to be most effective. NAWCA is uniquely impactful for bringing together federal, state and local partners for critical conservation work,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud once again support this important program, which has had a meaningful impact in Maryland. In our state alone, more than $16 million in grants have leveraged $62.7 million contributions and preserved 58,371 acres of wetlands. I look forward to seeing it move quickly through the Senate as part of the ACE Act.” 

“The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has protected some of our continent’s most critical habitats for nearly 35 years,” said Senator Coons. “30 million acres, including some of Delaware’s most precious places, have been protected for migratory birds, endangered species, and other wildlife. Conservation is a bipartisan issue, and I’m proud to work with my colleagues, and advocates like Ducks Unlimited, to provide funding for these efforts as a member of the Appropriations Committee.” 

“NAWCA is one of the nation’s most successful conservation programs, and I am proud to express my continued support for its reauthorization. The program is a unique, partnership-based program that leverages non-federal funds to protect, restore and manage wetland habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife,” said Senator Crapo.  

“Climate change continues to wreak havoc on our environment, and our wetlands are no exception,” said Senator Smith. “As Minnesotans, we pride ourselves on our diverse array of wildlife. I’m proud to join this legislation to continue to protect our wildlife and their wetland habitats.” 

“Montana’s wetlands are filled with game birds, fish, and other wildlife and are critically important to our state’s sportsmen and outdoor heritage,” said Senator Tester. “Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act will be a big step forward in preserving our great outdoors and investing in the Last Best Place. I’m proud to join this bipartisan legislation and I will keep working to ensure future generations of Montanans have the chance to make lasting memories in the Treasure State.” 

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is endorsed by Delta Waterfowl, Boone and Crockett, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Audubon, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Outdoor Industry Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Restore America’s Estuaries. 

“Tens of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat have been conserved in Arkansas thanks to NAWCA, which helps promote and maintain wetlands that serve as a world-class duck hunting environment. Ensuring we continue to protect and preserve it and other outdoor recreation sites not only benefits migratory bird populations and other species, it is also a sound economic investment. I’m proud to join Sen. Heinrich and our colleagues to introduce legislation reauthorizing this important program,” said Boozman, a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. 

“NAWCA is a foundational pillar of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,”said Adam Putnam, CEO, Ducks Unlimited. “The voluntary, incentive-based approach has conserved millions of acres of habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife while helping improve water quality and quantity and making our communities more resilient. We thank Sens. Heinrich and Kennedy for supporting North America’s most successful wetlands conservation program, and we urge their colleagues to support it.”  

“The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is one of the most cost-effective conservation investments we can make. Often matched at a rate of 3:1, this important program is a great example of how federal investments into conservation can be leveraged with private contributions to secure a significant return on investment to bolster on-the-ground conservation,” said Jeff Crane, President and CEO, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “CSF thanks past Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. Heinrich and CSC Member Sen. Kennedy for introducing this legislation, and for their commitment to conservation.”   

“Wetlands shield against floods, help clean our drinking water and provide habitat for diverse plant and animal life. Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act is an opportunity for Congress to continue America's conservation legacy while sparking job creation and outdoor recreation opportunities. We applaud Senators Heinrich and Kennedy for championing our nation’s wetlands and the lives they sustain,”said Tom Cors, Senior Legislative Director, The Nature Conservancy.  

“North America’s wetlands demonstrate what is possible for people, wildlife, and clean water when we make strategic, concerted investments in conserving and restoring vital habitat,” said Andrew Wilkins, Land Conservation Policy Director, National Wildlife Federation. “This reauthorization bill will help keep our commitment to wetlands conservation strong and ensure that the people and wildlife whose work, water and way of life can endure for future generations. Congress should ensure the North American Wetlands Conservation Act remains one of America’s most successful conservation programs since it first passed in 1989.”  

“The New Mexico Wildlife Federation applauds Senator Heinrich for leading the effort to reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. NAWCA investments have been instrumental in protecting, restoring and improving critical wildlife habitat for countless species of wildlife across New Mexico. In addition to the immense benefits this has provided for plant, fish and non-game animal species in our state, waterfowl populations have experienced tremendous success. Waterfowl hunters contribute tens of millions of dollars annually to our state's economy with much of that directly benefiting rural communities. The increase in funding included in this reauthorization bill is a sound investment for the future of wildlife, all the people who love wildlife and all the communities who depend on robust populations of wildlife to support their local economies,” said Jesse Deubel, Executive Director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation

A one-page summary of the bill is here

The text of the bill is here