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Conservation's Best Kept Secret

DU’s public policy efforts are more important than ever for wetlands and waterfowl
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So what does this mean for the future? DU’s top scientists, our conservation planners, recently looked into their biological crystal ball to see what will work best for waterfowl over the next 25 years. They have created a “vision document” that explores the question: “What will it take to keep waterfowl populations at sustainable levels into the foreseeable future and beyond?”

Their first question was, “Is current conservation work getting the job done?” We all know that DU and our partners are doing lots of good work. Together we’re completing many projects, conducting significant scientific research, and achieving many important conservation accomplishments. But unfortunately, we also know that vital waterfowl habitat continues to be lost each year. So, is the conservation community just “buying time” for North America’s waterfowl by slowing their eventual demise? Where will that leave us in 25 years?

One of the primary conclusions DU’s planners reached is that we need to increase the energy and effort we’re putting into public policy. Wonderful things get accomplished for ducks on a project-by-project basis, but by fielding a team of waterfowl activists that can help save the Conservation Reserve Program, for example, we can help maintain 8 million acres in the heart of the most important duck breeding area in the United States. Every waterfowl enthusiast must be a part of this team so that our representatives in Congress will hear a loud and unified voice on behalf of our waterfowl resource.

It’s this simple: If we aren’t out on that governmental advocacy “playing field” advocating for waterfowl needs, we won’t be successful in securing the birds’ future. All the other special-interest groups in this country are out on that governmental playing field, and if we aren’t, the ducks will assuredly lose.

Now, we need to realize that a public policy effort requires some new thinking and new understanding. While we celebrate many victories in our partnership with government, we must also realize that the government is a many-headed dragon that sometimes works against itself. That may not make sense to taxpayers, but it happens every day. For example, DU works successfully to obtain federal government funds that perpetually conserve precious acres in the Prairie Pothole Region. Yet, at the same time, by dramatically raising the production goal for biofuels, the government fosters the plowing of more grassland in the same region and hence provides more competition for conservation efforts. Also, increased competition for land drives up the cost of protecting each acre.

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