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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Milestones in Conservation

A look back at some of the most influential people and events in conservation history
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By Ken Babcock

The slogan for Ducks Unlimited's 75th Anniversary, CONSERVATION FOR GENERATIONS, applies to past, present and future generations alike. Several generations of DU supporters, all of whom have shared a love of wetlands and waterfowl, have been at the center of North America's conservation movement for the past 75 years. 

In 1937, the year Joseph Palmer Knapp and his colleagues in the More Game Birds in America Foundation founded Ducks Unlimited, the United States was struggling through the depths of the Great Depression. If the dismal economic conditions were not enough to deal with, much of the continent was in the grips of widespread and prolonged drought. Waterfowl populations plummeted as the prairie potholes of the Duck Factory dried to dust. In these difficult times, DU's founders acted decisively to start a new organization based on a revolutionary idea—that waterfowl populations could be restored through wetland restoration on the birds' primary breeding grounds on the Canadian prairies. 

But DU's founders hardly acted alone. In fact, they were part of a much broader North American conservation movement, which arose in response to dramatic declines in populations of game and other wildlife during the 19th century. This awakening evolved over more than a century, and Ducks Unlimited was a product of that transformation. As we celebrate DU's 75th Anniversary, let's take a look back at some of the conservation milestones that have made a real difference for North America's waterfowl, other wildlife, and people.

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