Waterfowl project funding narrowly approved
Published 2:15 pm Monday, October 23, 2023
BUCCANEER — Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission narrowly approved the allocation of $649,431 for Waterfowl projects in a commission meeting on October 12 at Buccaneer State Park. A finalized breakdown of the project funding released last Friday shows $399,431 of those funds will be used in Mississippi projects.
Duck hunters in Mississippi are required to purchase a federal and Mississippi duck stamp, which helps fund projects recommended by the Waterfowl Program staff. MDWFP Waterfowl Program Director Houston Havens said they had a record number of 50,000 state duck stamps sold.
Commissioners narrowly approved the staff recommendations to fund projects after Commissioner Gary Rhoads complained about the allocation of $125,000 each to Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl to improve waterfowl habitat.
“Why are we sending money out of state? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a hatchery like they do in Tennessee,” Rhoads said.
Commissioner William Mounger clarified any confusion with a quick google search on his phone during the discussion. Mounger said Metzer Farms Memphis hatchery is what Rhoads was referring to and explained it produces farm and pet ducks to be sold nationwide, not wild waterfowl.
Havens explained the money Mississippi sends goes to easements to protect and improve habitat needed for waterfowl in the prairie pothole region. The majority of Mississippi’s ducks come from this region and the funding is done every year.
“The money we send goes to wild birds in their breeding grounds,” Havens said. “The bands show they come down here and are harvested by us.”
Commissioners Scott Coopwood, William Mounger and Chairman Bill Cossar voted to approve the staff recommendations while Leonard Bentz and Rhoads voted against.
States across the Mississippi Flyway send money north to fund the habitat projects in the prairie pothole region and Saskatchewan Province including Louisiana. Havens explained Mississippi’s allocation of $125,000 is matched 4 to 1 by other programs so the financial contribution to Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited is $500,000 each.
Ongoing Mississippi State University Research on Wood Duck nest box production and female wood duck recruitment will receive $30,514. Wildlife Management Areas will receive $250,000 in funding for wetland management and enhancements.
The Private Land Wetland Program will receive $40,000 for wetland habitat assistance programs which provide water control structures to private landowners on a competitive ranking criteria. Aerial Waterfowl Surveys will receive $31,000 in funding to help monitor the Mississippi delta waterfowl abundance and habitat quality. Havens quipped he knows the Aerial Surveys are important based on the reaction from the public if flights are delayed by weather.
The Waterfowl Program will receive $9,000 to fund staff travel to regional and national meetings and workshops related to waterfowl and wetlands as needed. Waterfowl Program will receive $5,000 will go to the trapping and banding of waterfowl as needed. Banding provides valuable data on waterfowl migration.
Mississippi Flyway Council dues will be paid with $25,917 in allocated funds. Youth Waterfowl Camp at Muscadine Farms WMA in partnership with DU will see $8,000 in funding.
“Funds allocated for the Private Land Wetland Infrastructure Assistance Program will be used as a match for a previously received grant through the MS Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund,” Havens said. “Some other line items will be used opportunistically as a state match for other outside funding opportunities as they are identified.”