Economics and Impacts of Waterfowl Management

How We Got Here

In 1985, the U.S. and Canadian governments established the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

The goal was to create: A fall flight of 100 million ducks and a breeding population of 62 million ducks. To finance it, the U.S. Congress created the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a federal, state and private-sector initiative that included a matching fund system to generate dollars that could be sent to Canada for securing and enhancing waterfowl breeding habitat.

This was a historic effort, unprecedented in its ambition, funding and scope.

But Congress did not create…

… a way to evaluate the expenditures and their impact on habitat and waterfowl production.

… a means to prioritize expenditures to achieve maximum return on the investment.

… safeguards to minimize political influence on the process.

The Results Are Predictable

30 years after the creation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, no one knows how much habitat has been protected, how much waterfowl it produced, or how much money has been spent.

Some say $2 billion, others say $10 billion. It may be more.

Leading scientists are concerned that those billions of dollars may not have made a statistically relevant impact on duck populations on the prairie breeding grounds.

They want to find out.

No One Has…

…measured the impact of the expenditures on waterfowl production.

…published a biological assessment of whether ducks have benefited in a meaningful way from these billions of dollars.

…analyzed which methods of improving breeding populations are most cost effective, or determined how funds could be better spent.

…quantified the amount of habitat permanently protected, or the land management practices being employed to maximize waterfowl production.

…credible information on the number of acres secured on the breeding grounds, and the number of ducks they produce.

…credible information on the actual per-acre costs of securing habitat.

…credible information on the cost effectiveness of various habitat management practices for waterfowl.

…a scientific assessment of whether non-permanent land management practices have increased duck population on a sustainable basis.
Over the next decade, an estimated $3 billion or more will be invested in waterfowl.

Much of that money will go to the northern prairie states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – the “duck factory”

This crucial region produces 50% to 70% of the continental duck population.

We need to know more before we spend billions more.

The world has changed since the creation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

  • Wetlands drainage has continued.
  • Agricultural practices have changed.
  • Technology has advanced exponentially.

Waterfowl have been squeezed into an ever-smaller landscape on the breeding grounds.

We need to produce more ducks on fewer acres.

We must prioritize our practices for maximum economic efficiency and biological impact.

We need accountability and matrixes to evaluate returns on investment.

We need a business plan to maximize waterfowl production, driven by sound economics and the best science.

Within 24 months, the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership, in conjunction with The Ohio State University, will complete and publish this plan. We will:

Assemble a team of scientists, wildlife professionals, business leaders, citizen conservationists and communication experts, working with leading universities in the United States and Canada.

Conduct a biological assessment of the waterfowl management practices on the breeding grounds:

  • Determining how many ducks are produced by each management method
  • Identifying the land parcels that have been purchased and/or placed under easement, and their production potential
  • Evaluating efficiency in terms of cost and return on investment
Complete an economic evaluation to determine the optimal ways to spend future funds, based on the most efficient management methods.
Create a template for harnessing technology to evaluate duck populations and habitat, driving economic efficiency and modernizing the science of waterfowl production.
Produce the first business plan for waterfowl managers.

Making A Business Plan For Waterfowl Managers:
  • Create a database of where lands have been secured on the prairie waterfowl breeding grounds, and their estimated production
  • Investigate how much it costs to buy or place an easement on land in the key waterfowl breeding grounds and recommend methods to increase efficiency
  • Determine what overhead costs have been – and what they should be
  • Learn how much it costs to produce the desired number of ducks as established under the goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan
  • Recommend how many more acres need to be set aside to achieve the current population goals and the cost to do so, incorporating business and technological concepts
  • Suggest potential public/private partnerships to increase economic efficiency, reduce costs and increase waterfowl production
  • Identify possible funding sources for future, cost-effective programs

Our Goals
  • 1. Through rigorous scientific and economic analysis, we will find the means to achieve maximum economic efficiency and waterfowl production on the breeding grounds.
  • 2. We will recommend ways to prevent overhead from exceeding 10 percent of total project costs.
  • 3. We will find a better way forward for the billions of dollars that will be spent on waterfowl in the next decade.

To achieve our goal, we must understand the past. Then we must create biologically sound, economically efficient methods for the future.

This is an imperative next step if we are to achieve long-term success for waterfowl, and to have the available financial resources expended in the most efficient manner. Join us.