For 10,000 years, since the Wisconsin Glacier retreated from the prairies of North America, duck numbers have likely waxed and waned due to dynamic forces that influence this region's wetlands and grasslands. If people use the land in a way that allows this natural system to continue to function, we should enjoy the magnificent company of wildfowl for generations to come. But that won't happen if we are careless, short-sighted, or complacent.
When DU celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2037, what will future readers of this magazine think of our actions? Will they smile softly and thank us for getting it right? Or will they shake their heads and wonder what went so wrong? We can't know the answer, but we do know what we need to do today. If we keep wetlands and grasslands on the prairies, we will keep the ducks.
HIGHLY VARIABLE Since 1955, the abundance of breeding ducks in the traditional survey area has ranged from a record low of 25 million birds in 1962 to a record high of 48.6 million birds in 2012.
Dr. Mike Anderson is senior conservation advisor at DU Canada national headquarters at Oak Hammock Marsh.