DU’s next highest priority conservation regions, those ranked Level 1B, include North America’s three most important waterfowl wintering grounds: the Central Valley of California, Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), and Gulf Coast. While these areas also support significant breeding populations of some waterfowl species (wood ducks in the MAV, mottled ducks on the Gulf Coast, and mallards in the Central Valley), DU’s primary objective in these regions is conserving wintering habitat.
DU’s Level 2A priority areas include the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region of Canada and the Great Basin and Great Lakes regions of the United States. DU’s conservation work in these areas focuses on protecting and restoring wetlands and associated upland habitats for breeding, staging, and migrating waterfowl. DU’s Level 2B priority areas are the Mid-Atlantic Coast, Pacific Northwest, and southern Great Plains of the United States and the Pacific Coast of Canada. DU’s conservation objectives in these areas include restoring and protecting wetlands and upland feeding habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl.
Elsewhere, in Level 3 and 4 priority regions, DU’s conservation work is generally restricted to specific habitat projects with high value to waterfowl populations. Good examples of these priority areas include Missouri’s Confluence Floodplain, Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Mexico’s Pacific Coast, and key estuaries and watersheds in the Atlantic Flyway. While DU will invest most of its resources in these high priority areas, DU will continue to actively conserve waterfowl habitat in all states and provinces across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Science and Public Policy
Science provides the foundation for all of Ducks Unlimited’s conservation work and is ultimately the basis for DU’s credibility as the world leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation. Extensive research has helped DU refine its conservation work on the prairies and in many other priority areas, ensuring that DU’s resources are being used effectively and efficiently. Given the scope and complexity of the challenges facing waterfowl and their habitats, however, DU recognizes that it must increase both its scientific capacity (staffing and funding) and capability (technology and expertise) now to support and direct its conservation work in the future.
“Achieving our vision will require going beyond our traditional focus on waterfowl and wetland science, agricultural science, and other fields traditionally linked to waterfowl habitat conservation,” says Dr. Alan Wentz, DU’s senior group manager of conservation and communications. “The threats and risks to waterfowl habitat and populations are increasingly complex and diverse, and our response must be to gather, analyze, and understand information that enables us to counter the threats and risks with effective conservation policy and direct programs. Although progress is being made, greater investment in science is necessary if DU is to have the tools and information needed to guide waterfowl conservation at a continental level.”
As demand for land, water, and other natural resources increases, the future of waterfowl will depend more than ever on people who support conservation of the birds’ habitat. “DU is greatly increasing its investment in sociological research to better understand the attitudes and expectations of DU members, landowners, other partners, and the public,” Wentz says. “We must be sure that we have broad support for the kinds of conservation programs that will be effective.”
Increasing DU’s scientific horsepower will also help DU promote public policies of vital importance to waterfowl. Some of DU’s biggest successes have resulted from influencing policymakers and conservation partners with solid science. This includes data on wetland and waterfowl ecology; the economic benefits of conservation policies; and the demographics, attitudes, and behavior of sportsmen and other constituencies.