By Scott Yaich, Ph.D.
Ducks Unlimited members frequently ask, “How are we doing? How many acres did we conserve last year?” The unstated question, though, is usually: “Are we making progress in securing the future of North America’s waterfowl?”
In many aspects of our daily lives, a simple “score card” is a pretty good reflection of how things are going. From the score of last night’s baseball game to the balance in our savings account, a number or two sums up things nicely. Conservation has its own score cards, but measuring conservation progress toward securing the future of waterfowl can be a little trickier. Ducks Unlimited, like most conservation organizations, has used “acres conserved” as a fundamental measure of progress. That is because acres have long been a basic unit of habitat measurement, and DU’s mission has always been focused on habitat conservation to support waterfowl populations now and in the future. So acres provide a useful, although in some ways oversimplified, measure of habitat accomplishments.
DU members can certainly be proud of what we have achieved during our 69-year history—more than 11.6 million acres have been conserved across North America. But just what do these acres represent? What’s included in that number?