$47.6 million is the amount of money the federal government allocated to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act in FY 2010.
$20 million is the amount of money the Interior Appropriations Bill, which passed the House late last month, would allocate to NAWCA in FY 2012.
[The Interior Appropriations Bill] seems to be simply an attack on public land and wildlife habitat. We need to care for our public lands because it is the basis of a lot of our economy in New Mexico, and important to our way of life.—Alan Hamilton, conservation director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation
More than 7,000 acres of New Mexico riparian areas, from the Jicarilla wetlands in the northwest to the middle Rio Grande Valley, have been the beneficiary of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which matches states' conservation dollars with money designated for restoring wetland habitats.
A conservation project right in Santa Fe's backyard—the Buckman Restoration and Recreation Enhancement Project, aimed at cleaning up the Buckman well field—should help draw down more NAWCA money for restoration of the entire Rio Grande corridor, but the proposed interior appropriations budget could "absolutely" put the kibosh on that prospect, Hamilton says.
Veteran duck hunter and Ducks Unlimited New Mexico member Fred Kolb tells SFR the waterfowl that use the Rio Grande corridor as a flyway between their northern nesting grounds and southern winter retreats could shift their route away from the state if its wetlands aren't preserved. Sixty percent of the middle Rio Grande Valley's wetlands have already disappeared since the 1930s, according to DUNM.
"If there's no wetlands, no water for them to paddle around in and to feed in, what's going to happen is the flyways will shift," Kolb says. "The ducks and geese will find where there's water—however, the more difficult it is for them to make the journey, the more that won't make it to the wintering grounds."
US Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, voted for the bill. Sens. Tom Udall, D-NM, and Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, will have a chance to throw water on it after the August recess.