A Long-standing Commitment to Continental Conservation
For nearly a century, Canada and the United States have recognized the interdependency of migratory birds on habitats in both countries. That was an essential element leading to the Migratory Bird Convention in 1916. The principle that American users of the waterfowl resource would help conserve essential breeding grounds in Canada was formalized with the birth of Ducks Unlimited in 1937. It began with $100,000, and for the next 40 years DU's sole purpose was to raise money in the United States for investment in Canadian wetland conservation.
Some 25 years ago, as another generation of visionary leaders conceived the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), our two countries formally recognized that success in conserving Canadian habitat is essential to sustaining waterfowl populations and harvest opportunities in the United States. With a national population less than the state of California, Canada in the 1980s had too few resources and insufficient incentives to accomplish on their own the massive conservation works envisioned by waterfowl managers. With NAWMP, recognition of the imperative of U.S. support enabled the first significant flow of U.S. public funds to Canada (and Mexico), leveraging commitments already in place from Ducks Unlimited. The importance of international partnerships to Canada and the United States has only increased with time. A brief look at some numbers makes it clear why that is so.
Birds in Abundance
If you think like a duck, Canada is above all the world's greatest repository of fresh water. Some 25 percent or the world's wetlands exist here and attract tens of millions of breeding waterfowl every spring. The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), the annual home for 50-70 percent of North America's 30-40 million ducks, comprises 300,000 square miles of mostly agricultural land in the heart of the continent, stretching for a thousand miles from Iowa to Alberta. With landscapes variably wet from year to year, the numbers of birds north and south of the 49th parallel change. But two-thirds of the PPR lies in Canada, and 71 percent of prairie ducks settled there on average from 1955-2007.
Immediately north of the prairies is the western boreal forest, four times as large as the Canadian PPR. Its most productive parts, the boreal plain and taiga plain, cover some 500,000 square miles. The western boreal forest supports 11-15 million breeding ducks each summer, second only to the prairies in waterfowl production.