In the waning hours before the electoral recess, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to extend the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act. The House of Representatives previously passed the bills and President Bush is expected to sign the legislation.

NAWCA was first authorized in 1989, and provides a tool for public-private efforts to conserve wetlands in all 50 states and areas of Canada and Mexico. According to wetland and waterfowl conservation organization Duck Unlimited (DU), NAWCA helps fulfill the goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and has helped foster hundreds of unique partnerships to conserve more than 20 million acres of habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. The current legislation extends the program for another five years and provides as much as $375 million for NAWCA projects.

The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act was also extended and expanded to include Canada in its purview of protecting and conserving migratory bird habitats across North America and the Caribbean. Many species of waterfowl and migratory birds breed in the Prairie Pothole and Western Boreal Forest regions of Canada and spend the winter months south of the U.S. border. Expansion of the program to include Canada will help address habitat challenges along the entire migratory route of these species, DU says.

Extension of the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act expands the role for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies, which, according to DU, will greatly enhance opportunities for the restoration of wetlands and associated uplands in the Great Lakes region.