Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2067 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
Because waterfowl depend on wetland habitats, and wetlands are rapidly declining, many conservation agencies and organizations are working to protect our wetlands and waterfowl. Federal agencies include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. State agencies like the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division are working cooperatively with these federal agencies and with private conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Waterfowl USA, and the Georgia Waterfowl Association to protect and enhance our wetland and waterfowl resources.
In Georgia, the Ducks Unlimited M.A.R.S.H. Program (Matching Aid to Restore State's Habitats) has been a great success. The M.A.R.S.H. Program is a conservation program that creates, restores, or enhances wetland habitats. Under this program, Ducks Unlimited and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division each pay for half of the costs associated with development of wetland projects. Between 1985 and 1999, Georgia completed 25 M.A.R.S.H. Projects encompassing 15,102 acres of wetland wildlife habitat. In 2000, four new projects are scheduled for completion. These areas provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, as well as aquatic invertebrates, numerous amphibians and reptiles, wading birds, shorebirds, certain species of neotropical migratory birds, and mammals such as the beaver, round-tailed muskrat, and otter.
In addition to these conservation groups and programs, there are national laws that affect wetlands and laws that encourage landowners to manage their property for wildlife. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires permits from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers before any dredging or filling activities can take place in wetlands. Another important law that affects wetlands and waterfowl is the 1996 Food Securities Act, also known as the Farm Bill. Private landowners control 74% of the wetlands in the U.S., and this piece of legislation is designed to encourage landowners to protect those wetlands. Landowners who qualify can enroll in programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), or the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). These programs help offset the cost of creating or enhancing wildlife habitat on private property. If you are interested in the conservation programs offered under the Farm Bill, contact your local county office of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or the Farm Services Agency (FSA).
Another important conservation effort is the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). This is an overall plan to conserve waterfowl resources across North America. The NAWMP contains population goals for all major waterfowl species, and lists various conservation methods to achieve those goals. Partnerships between private conservation groups and various state and federal agencies are the key ingredient to making the NAWMP successful. Conservation groups, agencies, and legislators are all working together to ensure a strong future for our waterfowl resources.