WASHINGTON, D.C., December 7, 2004--- Congress solved a two-year impasse on Monday when it passed a key conservation bill. The legislation provides technical assistance funding to landowners who want to participate in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The Bush Administration touted both major conservation programs during the recent presidential campaign as solutions to environmental challenges facing the U.S. Private landowners often partner with Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups to provide technical assistance for both programs. The WRP and CRP programs conserve and restore wetlands and grasslands important to waterfowl and other wildlife, as well as helping maintain and improve water quality. President Bush must now sign the bill for it to become law.
The legislation would end a two-year stalemate between congressional agriculture policy leaders and budget experts. The solution was crafted by the Senate Agriculture Committee and sponsored by Senator Thad Cochran (MS). The bill more clearly defines the intent of the 2002 Farm Bill by resolving the conflicting interpretations of the Conservation Title’s funding for technical assistance, thereby terminating the need for certain conservation programs to cover costs for the implementation of others. With support from the Agriculture Committee and House leadership, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK) successfully pushed the measure to be one of the final bills considered on the House floor in the final days of the 108th Congress.
President Bush is a strong supporter of WRP and CRP, having cited them as examples of positive solutions to environmental challenges in remarks he made on Earth Day earlier this year. Bush also highlighted the success of the programs at appearances during the presidential campaign.
For the past two years, Ducks Unlimited has worked aggressively with the agriculture and wildlife communities along with policy experts on Capitol Hill to find a long-term solution to technical assistance funding for CRP and WRP. There were times when the future of WRP and CRP were both in jeopardy. The bi-partisan support on the House floor for the technical assistance bill is a victory for farmers, ranchers, landowners, and sportsmen conservationists. By passing this bill in the lame duck session, Congress has ensured the continued success of WRP and CRP.
With more than a million supporters, Duck Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands—nature’s most productive ecosystem—and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.