“We realize that water allocation decisions are challenging and that compromises have to be made,” testified Kirby Brown, a conservation outreach biologist for Ducks Unlimited. “However, Ducks Unlimited feels very strongly that the needs of waterfowl and wetland wildlife in the rice prairie wetlands complex must be voiced and evaluated along with other stakeholder interests. There are significant economic impacts tied to rice agriculture and waterfowl hunting, as well as natural resource and cultural heritage considerations. We sincerely thank the LCRA board and staff for taking the time to hear our concerns, and we want to express our appreciation for their efforts to meet in the middle.”

In addition to water fowl, Brown told the board that more than 12 million shorebirds and wading birds are highly dependent on flooded rice acres for nesting, migration and wintering habitat. He says the region’s wildlife already is taking a hit as a result of the emergency order that prevented release of water this year to rice fields. Another year of dry rice fields could be “devastating to wildlife” in the region.

Earlier this year, Todd Merendino, manager of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited’s Texas field office, testified before LCRA’s board over the importance of coastal wetlands and the role they play in protecting the Texas waterfowl population. Citing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, he told the group that Texas leads the nation with the most hunters and anglers (2.6 million), the most money spent by sportsmen and women ($6.6 billion), the most jobs supported (106,000), and the highest tax revenue generated ($1.3 billion) each year by outdoor recreation in any state.

He also said that wintering waterfowl represents a substantial segment of that revenue, and rice wetlands surrounding the Colorado River have traditionally offered up to 50,000 acres of prime habitat for migratory birds.