In order to bring back the balance he seeks, Jasikoff is overseeing the work that calls for daily digging in heavy muck soil. Crews are clearing holes into the dense stands of cattail, offering waterfowl new options.
"We're not just carving circular ponds," Jasikoff says as we drive out to one of the work sites. "We've analyzed it. We're cutting nooks and corners that will promote real diversity."
Phase one came with a price tag of $550,000 and will be complete this year. The money came from a grant that Montezuma that to compete for, a pot of roughly $14 million allocated by Congress for wildlife projects.
"We wanted to be extremely efficient with that money," Jasikoff says, pointing to several pieces of heavy equipment. "We're not renting. We knew this would take several years, so we purchased equipment. Now the next phase will cost us less. We try to save as much as we can at every step."
He estimates phase two will be "a couple hundred thousand dollars, at least," and would start later this year if another grant comes through. There is no phase three; the entire project would be complete in three more years.
Taxpayers might wonder: Why now? Can't the birds wait? After all, the federal budget is saddled by deficit and debt.
Jasikoff says he understands why some taxpayers might want to shelve all federal projects for the time being. "I'm a taxpayer," he says. "I believe as a representative of the government -- of the US Fish and Wildlife Service -- we need to responsible with what we do with these funds. But this is a vital mission. Congress entrusted us with this responsibility. The American people made it a value to uphold 75 years ago."