Ducks Unlimited, Inc. (DU) was recently awarded the first-ever North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant in the Lahontan Valley region, which will help conserve 8,780 acres of habitat in western Nevada.
Approximately $2.3 million in partner funds will be paired with $1 million in NAWCA grant funds to underwrite wetlands restoration and enhancement activities.
“The Lahontan Valley region provides a major wetland linkage for several million waterfowl coming from prairie Canada via the Great Salt Lake to the east and wintering grounds in the California Central Valley to the west,” said DU regional biologist John Ranlett, who prepared the grant application. “In spring, this migration occurs in reverse order. Wetland and upland habitat improvements provided by this project will benefit numerous waterfowl, shorebirds, other waterbirds, and songbirds that use the area during their annual cycles.”
Ranlett said the Lahontan Valley is continentally important for waterfowl, shorebirds and other waterbirds, but trying to get federal dollars spent for wetland restoration and enhancement in that area has proven exceedingly difficult.
“This was Ducks Unlimited’s first opportunity to submit a $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant application for this region and we are thrilled to have been awarded the money that will benefit Lahontan and other areas in Western Nevada,” he said. “Ducks Unlimited has been trying to bring these NAWCA dollars to the Lahontan Valley for the past 15 years, but the challenge has always been finding match money. That is, for every dollar of NAWCA funds, we need to match with $2 of non-federal money to make the grant work. And the non-federal conservation money being spent on the ground in Western Nevada had been very limited and a real challenge to find until now. So a lot of credit also goes to our partners.”
Ranlett said it is their goal to have construction underway at Carson Lake and Pasture by late spring or early summer of this year to improve water conveyance to over 2,500 acres of huntable wetlands and make the area more attractive to waterfowl and other wetland-associated species.
“This is great news for conservationists and hunters alike in the Fallon area.” he said. Because of this grant, Ducks Unlimited will be able to improve both of the area’s major publicly accessible wetland tracts, Carson Lake and Pasture and Stillwater NWR.
“Before we submitted the NAWCA request to agency staff back in Washington, D.C, few folks there had ever heard of the Lahontan Valley — so this also brings national attention to the area,” Ranlett added.
Work accomplished through the grant will conserve wetlands and wetland-dependent migratory bird populations on 11 sites within the Intermountain West Joint Venture’s (IWJV) Lahontan Valley–Carson Valley Wetlands Focus Area. The Lahontan Valley ecosystem is one of the most important wetland complexes for waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds in North America—one of 43 areas of greatest continental significance to ducks, geese, and swans—with millions of wterfowl use days recorded annually.
The Lahontan Valley–western Nevada Wetlands Project was developed in close coordination with the IWJV and is the first of several phases of NAWCA-funded wetland projects that DU will eventually propose for the region. The Joint Venture shares DU’s excitement about the grant, with IWJV coordinator Dave Smith stating the grant award will be “a monumental step for wetlands conservation in Nevada, with the proposed work matching the urgency of the situation while there still is a chance to conserve those vital wetlands.”
DU teamed with 16 partners over the past two years to develop the project proposal and apply for the NAWCA grant. The current work will focus on 11 tracts of land and more than 92 percent of all project work will occur on federal, state, tribal or local government-owned lands managed specifically for wetlands and the wetland-dependent migratory birds they support, or as public open space. This includes 8,078 acres on seven of the 11 project sites, with five sites providing public hunting on more than 7,000 acres.
The five sites are Stillwater NWR, Carson Lake and Pasture, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Wetlands, Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area and Incline Village Wetlands Enhancement Facility. The two publicly accessible sites not open for hunting are on the lands owned by Carson City Department of Parks and Recreation along the Carson River and at The Nature Conservancy’s River Fork Ranch.