What do you see as the greatest threats to wetlands and waterfowl?
While preparing for future threats is important, we have to remain focused on the threats we are facing now. Sprawl and conversion of wetlands and other habitats are ongoing, and we have to find ways to slow and reverse habitat loss, especially on the prairies, if we are to succeed in our mission.
Another serious threat is declining participation in waterfowling, in other forms of hunting, and in outdoor recreation in general. We need to be mentors to our youth to ensure they know what it's like to hunt and have a connection with nature. In most cases, when kids receive a proper introduction to waterfowling and other forms of hunting, they become hunters themselves.
I was asked in an interview once how parents can help their kids gain a greater appreciation for nature. I told them to send their kids out to play and get mud and grass stains on their clothes because that's how they connect with nature and become conservationists. If we don't do everything we can today to reach our youth, we won't have much support for conservation a generation from now.
What are your top priorities in your role as CEO of Ducks Unlimited?
My most important job as CEO is to make sure that DU is solid and strong 10 or 20 years from now because of our actions today. What that means is, we must always follow sound business practices and be mindful of our bottom line. I am going to be having discussions over the next few months about how we can ensure that DU will always have the resources it needs to effectively fulfill its mission.
Another top priority for me is communication. You can't raise funds for conservation without good messaging and effective communication about what we are accomplishing on the ground for wetlands, waterfowl, and people. It's imperative that we continue to effectively communicate with our core supporters: waterfowlers. They are the ones who got us where we are today, and they are absolutely vital to the future success of this organization.
What is your personal vision for DU's future?
The resource always comes first. DU's mission—to conserve wetlands and fill the skies with ducks and geese—has been the same for 73 years. That's what DU does, and that's not going to change under my watch.
Second, we are going to stay true to science. I'm a scientist, and to me a fact is a fact. DU will always do what the science tells us to do, and by frequently evaluating our conservation programs through research, we will be able to accomplish our mission more efficiently and effectively in the future.
Third, DU is respected because of our nonconfrontational approach to conservation. This has allowed us to form partnerships with diverse groups and expand the scope of our conservation programs. In the future, it will be particularly important for DU to continue being a good friend and strong partner of the agricultural community. Farmers and ranchers are good land stewards, and we need to help them succeed. We need to provide them with many different options that will help them make a living while also providing habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife on their property. Without the cooperation of farmers and ranchers, we won't accomplish our conservation goals. It's that simple.
And lastly, we need to build on DU's greatest strength: our people. We've got the most professional staff and the most passionate, hardest-working volunteers in the world, and as long as we work together, we can do anything. I strongly believe that we are working for future generations—including those who are yet to be born. Everything we do today to benefit wetlands and waterfowl is a legacy that we are leaving to our children and grandchildren, who will appreciate that DU was here doing its important work.