To sustain healthy waterfowl populations in the future, DU must adapt to emerging challenges and increase the scope of its conservation work
By Matt Young
Ducks Unlimited is guided by one clear vision: filling the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever. During the past 71 years, DU has made significant progress toward fulfilling this vision, having conserved more than 12 million acres of wetlands and associated waterfowl habitat across North America. Despite all that has been accomplished by DU and its partners, powerful forces now threaten decades of conservation progress. Surging global demand for energy and commodities, new technology, climate change, and other trends now pose grave threats to waterfowl habitat across the continent. In addition, declining participation in outdoor recreation—including hunting—is causing a growing disconnect between the public and nature, which could undermine future support for conservation policies and programs.
Throughout its history, DU has never been satisfied with past accomplishments and, as in the past, is moving decisively to meet these new threats head on. Following a comprehensive review of all its conservation activities, DU has concluded that it will not accomplish its mission by continuing to pursue only the successful conservation programs and strategies of the past. To provide a secure future for North America’s waterfowl, DU must increase its power to influence public policy, expand its on-the-ground conservation work in key places, and strengthen its scientific capacity and capability supporting its conservation programs. DU must also continue to improve its ability to assess risks and emerging threats so it can act quickly and proactively to meet challenges and seize opportunities.
“DU will only achieve our vision of abundant and sustainable waterfowl populations if future conservation accomplishments exceed habitat losses in the places most important to waterfowl,” says DU Executive Vice President Don Young. “We must move beyond our traditional measures of success, from how many acres we conserve and dollars we raise to how successful we are in conserving the landscapes that sustain waterfowl. DU must invest our resources in doing the right things in the right places. And we must plan and implement the appropriate mix of science, direct conservation programs, and public policy to maximize our conservation impact on the most important landscapes for waterfowl.”
A Strategic Approach to Conservation
Ducks Unlimited is guided by its International Conservation Plan, which clearly defines DU’s vision and how best to achieve it through carefully targeted habitat conservation efforts in high-priority regions (see pages 90-91). Recently revised by DU’s senior scientists, this document includes priority rankings for the geographic areas across North America of greatest importance to sustaining healthy waterfowl populations. These rankings were established to help DU invest limited resources where they will do the most good for waterfowl.
DU’s highest priority ranking, Level 1A, has been given to North America’s two most important waterfowl breeding areas, the Prairie Pothole Region and western boreal forest. “An understanding of what limits waterfowl populations is crucial to targeting DU’s conservation work,” says DU Canada Executive Vice President Jeff Nelson. “Recent research on mallards and pintails strongly suggests that populations of these two species are affected mostly by events on the breeding grounds, and it’s likely that most other ducks are also limited by events that occur during the breeding period.”