Nearly 400 Ducks Unlimited supporters, volunteers, staff and partners celebrated a record-breaking 2018 at the Ducks Unlimited Minnesota Convention on Feb. 8 and 9 in Willmar.
The passionate crowd showed why Minnesota is consistently a top Ducks Unlimited state for conservation projects, event fundraising and major donor and corporate supporters.
Minnesota has 43,000 Ducks Unlimited members among 150 chapters, and the top performing chapters in five regions were recognized. The top group, from Garrison, raised $300,000 for conservation in 2018. Garrison Chapter organizes the Fishing for Ducks Ice Fishing Contest, the largest attended DU event in the nation. In 2018, the event drew a record 5,000 anglers to Mille Lacs Lake and generated $175,000.
“It’s very exciting,” said Garrison Chapter member Greg Erickson. “We are a small town, and we’re very proud to be the biggest chapter in the state.”
The 2019 slate of Ducks Unlimited state officers were introduced, including the changing of state chairpersons. Outgoing Chair Ruth Hoefs of LeCenter handed the two-year position to Kyle Thaemlitz of Lakefield.
Ducks Unlimited’s conservation team highlighted an important year of wetlands restoration, which saw 20 projects completed and 24,000 acres of wetlands and prairie protected, enhanced or restored. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen was the keynote speaker and emphasized the importance of Ducks Unlimited’s conservation and fundraising strength in the state.
“No one can do this work alone,” Strommen said. “We wouldn’t have what we have in Minnesota without Ducks Unlimited.”
Ducks Unlimited recognized Scott Glup, Litchfield Wetland Management District project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with its 2018 Minnesota Conservation Partner of the Year Award.
Convention goers also learned of Minnesota’s major contributions to the success of Ducks Unlimited’s $2 billion Rescue our Wetlands campaign. Kicked off in 2012, the campaign officially ended in December and is the largest wetlands conservation fundraising effort ever in North America. During the campaign, Minnesota’s event fundraising contributed $20.5 million toward the campaign and the state’s major donors were responsible for $4.1 million.