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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Conservation: Anatomy of a DU Project

A bird's-eye view of the wetland restoration process from beginning to end
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Next an engineer investigated the watershed, hydrology, soils, and other physical features of the project area, and working in consultation with a biologist, determined what needed to be done on the ground to restore the wetland to a healthy, functional state. In this case, the wetland was restored by building embankments, installing water-control structures, and filling a pit excavated long ago by a previous landowner. The bioengineering team also recommended drilling a well to ensure that the wetland would have water—and provide habitat for waterfowl—during periods of drought. 

This information was then incorporated into a detailed restoration plan, which included cost estimates for each phase of the project. At this point, DU held a meeting with its key agency partner, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and neighboring landowners to give them an opportunity to offer input and make recommendations. Depending on the size of the project, a larger stakeholder meeting or formal public hearing is sometimes held to gather additional input and build community support. Participating in these meetings is another way that DU members can further support our conservation work on a local and regional level. 

The next time you see a flock of ducks or geese, whether you are five miles or 500 miles from the nearest Ducks Unlimited project, rest assured that your contributions are directly responsible for helping to fill the skies with waterfowl, today, tomorrow and forever.

When the project design was finalized, necessary permits requested and received, and funding secured from partners including the North American Wetlands Conservation Council and the Nebraska Environmental Trust, DU hired an independent contractor to implement the restoration plan after advertising the project on the DU website and accepting competitive bids. Next a DU construction manager was deployed to ensure that the restoration plan was precisely implemented and all specifications were followed. After years of planning and fundraising, ground was finally broken on this project in the fall, and heavy construction equipment was used to restore the natural hydrology of this Rainwater Basin wetland. When the earthwork was completed, DU, its agency partner, and the contractor conducted a final inspection of the project to verify that all design elements were in place. 

A few months later, snowmelt filled the restored wetland basin, providing productive new habitat for waterfowl and a variety of other wildlife. But this wetland restoration project was not yet complete. A dedication ceremony was scheduled to say thanks to DU's many partners, and especially to its volunteers and members, who helped make it all possible.  

The day of the dedication finally arrived. The flags went up, and thankfully, the ducks and weather cooperated. The sight of water glistening in the restored wetland and a flyover by a flock of mallards were all that was really needed to motivate everyone in attendance to keep working "for the ducks."

So the next time you see a flock of ducks or geese, whether you are five miles or 500 miles from the nearest Ducks Unlimited project, rest assured that your contributions are directly responsible for helping to fill the skies with waterfowl, today, tomorrow and forever. 


Ryan Heiniger is director of conservation programs at DU's Great Plains office in Bismarck, North Dakota. 

Volunteer Today Volunteering for Ducks Unlimited is a great way to have fun, make new friends, and support our vital wetlands and waterfowl habitat conservation work. DU's dedicated volunteers are the heart and soul of the organization, planning, hosting, and managing more than 4,000 local fundraising events across the nation each year. By selling raffle tickets, gathering donations, securing sponsorships, contacting government officials, and putting together some great parties, DU volunteers generate more than $38 million and recruit more than 300,000 DU members each year. To join our team of nearly 50,000 DU volunteers and become a leader in wetlands conservation, visit the DU website today at www.ducks.org/volunteer.


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