It is time U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) officials do something about this and redirect their land acquisition policy toward the breeding grounds and away from the wintering grounds.
As I vividly detailed in my book Texas Waterfowl, much of the breeding occurs in a handful of counties, yet Service officials admit on their website they only manage a fraction of the habitat there
“Most of the more than 520 National Wildlife Refuges and additional Waterfowl Production Areas managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service are located along the migratory flyways, serving as breeding and wintering grounds and as ‘rest stops’ for these birds.”‘
“For example, in the ‘duck factory’ of the upper Midwest, the National Wildlife Refuge System manages just two percent of the landscape, yet 23 percent of the region’s waterfowl breed there,” Service officials posted.
On the other hand, they are the single largest landowner in Jefferson County with their ownership of the McFaddin and Texas Point National Wildlife Refuges. Ditto for other counties along the coast.
Yes, it is good that those lands have protection from development and yes, they do produce native mottled ducks, but they are a prime example of something Service officials have been doing wrong all along.
It makes no sense to have literally millions of acres conserved in wintering grounds throughout the country, when the areas they grow up in could use help. Keeping the prairie pothole region away from going under the plow would be a much better investment than adding to the Trinity National Wildlife Refuge for example.
That is a big chunk of hardwood bottoms they have purchased along the Trinity River, yet hunters are extremely limited as to where they can hunt.
Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to spend the valuable duck stamp funds generated by hunters on areas that produce ducks? Wouldn’t that be better serving constituents than continue buying up land in the wintering grounds and allowing hunting only in an extremely limited fashion?
I first got the idea for this concept while hunting with Phil “Duck Commander” Robertson a few years ago.
He brought it up and it has been something that has stayed with me since our duck blind conversation. He deserves credit for planting the seed of this idea and I think it is something worth pursuing.
Conserving more wintering grounds for waterfowl while the areas that actually produce those waterfowl are disappearing at a rapid pace is an idea that has seen its time pass.
Service officials should stop buying land in the wintering grounds and buy land that will keep the duck factory producing.
I am on record being against the government buying any more land (which is a whole other blog), but that doesn’t seem like that will be happening any time soon. If they are going to continue land acquisition with money from duck stamp sales and other means, they should buy the land that produces the ducks we hunt.
Conservation means the “wise use of resources” and continually buying up wintering grounds when nesting areas are perishing is not wise in any way, shape or form.