Conservation leader lends voice to water requirements of wetlands, wildlife

Ducks Unlimited is ramping up efforts to represent wildlife and waterfowl interests related to Texas water-allocation decisions, underscoring the important role of rice agriculture in providing habitat for wetland wildlife. As part of that effort, Kirby Brown will be starting as DU’s new Texas conservation outreach specialist on Oct. 1.

Water shortages directly impact the capacity of coastal Texas public and private landowners to provide habitat to meet the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) objective to over-winter and return approximately 4.5 million ducks and nearly 1 million geese to the continental breeding population.

“We understand difficult decisions must be made in the face of limited water resources,” said Todd Merendino, DU manager of conservation programs for Texas. “However, millions of wintering waterfowl and other migratory birds and wildlife depend heavily on Texas coastal wetlands—many of which are associated with rice agriculture—for habitat and food resources. Ducks Unlimited’s goal is to ensure the requirements of these important natural and economic resources are considered in water-allocation decisions.”

Availability of water for waterfowl habitat management and other wetland-dependent wildlife populations, rice agriculture and coastal estuaries is a significant conservation concern in the face of rapid, unprecedented population increases and associated water demands from principal Texas cities.

“Coastal Texas, as part of DU’s Gulf Coast Conservation Initiative, is among our highest continental conservation priorities for wintering waterfowl in North America,” said Tom Moorman, DU director of science and planning. “Kirby Brown’s extensive experience with waterfowl management, private landowners throughout Texas and many aspects of conservation public policy and water issues in Texas will be of great value to DU as we ramp up our efforts to represent the water and habitat requirements of waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.”

Brown holds degrees in political science and wildlife science from Texas A&M University. He comes to DU from the Texas Wildlife Association, where he recently served as senior vice president of public policy and as executive president from 2002 to 2009. He worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department from 1977 to 2002 as manager of J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area and program director for private lands enhancement and public hunting.

“I look forward to raising awareness of the habitat requirements of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife and to helping find innovative solutions to enhance water supplies to meet those needs in Texas,” Brown said. “DU can serve as a facilitator and leader in developing partnerships to create win-win practical solutions for waterfowl and wetlands, rice farmers and private landowners, our communities and local economies, and water suppliers and the Texas public.”

Ducks Unlimited seeks to provide decision makers with the information necessary to fully understand the importance of the Texas Coast to waterfowl and the related economic impacts of hunting and other wildlife-associated recreation in the area. Along with a declining habitat base, the region’s waterfowl-hunting heritage is threatened by water supply issues, and that is a threat to the Texas economy. Waterfowl hunting alone contributes $204 million to the Texas economy each year.

Based out of Austin, Brown will work to help inform policy makers, water suppliers and water users about the requirements of waterfowl and to engage DU in innovative efforts to expand available water supplies in coastal Texas for waterfowl, industry, agriculture and people.

Logo courtesy Ducks Unlimited

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