The Ducks Bounce Back
The prairie drought finally broke in the spring of 1994. Formerly arid potholes, sloughs, and marshes filled with snowmelt and stayed brimful well into summer. And the ducks responded. Mallard numbers were up 22 percent over the previous year's estimate, and the pintail breeding population soared 45 percent. In fact, of the 10 most abundant species in the spring survey all showed significant breeding population increases. If there was ever any doubt that DU's philosophy of restoring waterfowl populations via habitat conservation was sound, the remarkable duck comeback of the mid-1990s offered living proof. Provide a healthy landscape, as DU had so often stated throughout its history, and ducks would flourish.
The impressive recovery of most waterfowl populations helped Ducks Unlimited soar to new heights during the 1990s. DU was also revitalized by a timely move of its national headquarters. Unable to expand its Long Grove facility to accommodate future growth, DU's board of directors established a search committee to survey a number of potential headquarters sites located in the Central and Mississippi flyways.
After an extensive site selection process and the generosity of prominent businessman William B. Dunavant Jr., the DU board made the decision to construct the new headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee
In 1994, just two years after its move to Memphis, DU launched Habitat 2000, its first comprehensive capital campaign. The campaign's goals were both straightforward and remarkably ambitious—to raise more money for the ducks than the organization had raised since its inception, and to reach record levels of membership. DU members, volunteers, and staff were quick to raise their sights on the Habitat 2000 target. By the time Habitat 2000 ended, DU had conserved more than 10 million acres of waterfowl habitat, raised an astounding $902 million, and grew the membership to over 757,000 strong.
Not long before the campaign ended, Connolly retired after 12 years of service. Succeeding Connolly was Don Young, who had served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of DU Canada since 1995.