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The Birth of DU

The amazing story of how a small group of waterfowlers changed the course of conservation history
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 By Michael Furtman


The banks of a trout stream may seem like a strange place for the birth of an organization devoted to waterfowl, but that is indeed where Ducks Unlimited was born. The stream was upper New York's famed Beaverkill River, but the organization did not exactly spring forth that day as if by immaculate conception.

DU's founders had already formed and funded an organization known as the More Game Birds in America Foundation, which had laid out a 10-year plan of action for increasing upland game bird populations. But now they were about to do something incredibly bold, something that had never been done before—create an organization that would manage habitat on a massive scale to impact species that spanned an entire continent.

Sitting at the fishing camp of the hard-charging, never-take-no-for-an-answer Joseph Palmer Knapp, the men discussed possible names for an organization that would restore duck numbers. With Knapp at the lodge were John C. Huntington, Arthur M. Bartley, and Ray E. Benson. Benson was on More Game Birds' staff as publicity director and had helped organize this meeting. He would later become secretary of Ducks Unlimited.

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