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Tobacco settlement benefits wetlands, waterfowl
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Ducks Unlimited, the non-profit conservation and hunting group with chapters across the nation, including Turlock, has been selected as one of the beneficiaries in a multi-million class action lawsuit against the makers of chewing tobacco.
Ducks Unlimited is among the more than 100 non-profit organizations to share in the $40 million left over from a $96 million class action settlement with U. S. Smokeless Tobacco Company and related entities.
With 650,000 members nationwide, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest private group working to conserve, restore, and manage wetland areas and waterfowl habitats in North America. Since forming in 1937, it has contributed more than $1 billion in funds to conservation efforts and help save more than 8 million acres of habitat land in North America. In California it has contributed more than $100 million to the California Wetlands Projects.
“After telling the story of DU’s mission and statewide work in California to conserve waterfowl habitats, we received $800,000 in settlement funds to continue this important conservation effort,” said Rudolph Rosen, director of Ducks Unlimited Western regional office in Sacramento.
The settlement funds came about through a lawsuit that pitted the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company and related entities against claimants who charged that the company had monopolized the market for moist smokeless tobacco products in California, forcing them to pay too much for tobacco. Settlement money leftover after disbursement to claimants was distributed to non-profit organizations. To satisfy claims from people who purchased small quantities, funds were distributed to charitable organizations rather than to the tobacco buyers themselves, said Rick Saveri, of Saveri & Saveri, Inc.,  who served as the plaintiffs’ co-liaison counsel.
Saveri said defense lawyers worked with him and others to determine which charities would receive the funds, based upon submissions of their work and needs.
“We saw the mission of DU in California to be geographically diverse and dedicated to substantial public services to Californians, especially those interested in waterfowl, hunting and wildlife habitat conservation,” Saveri said.
Rosen said all settlement funds will be deposited into a special Wetlands and Waterfowl Enhancement Account and will be used through out the state for advocacy, regulatory or educational work to conserve wetlands and waterfowl habitats.
Closer to home, the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited is gearing up for their 39th Annual Adult/Green Wing Dinner set for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Denair Community Center.
“Everyone is welcome at the banquet, which will feature auctions and drawings of wildlife and sporting art as well as goods and services donated by area businesses,” said Toni Ruddick, the committee chairman for the event.
Proceeds from the event will go towards conservation efforts. For ticket information call Ruddick at 402-0095.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.