The Birth of Ducks Unlimited de Mexico
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, in response to pollution and the loss of natural resources, an awakening of environmentalism and conservation was sweeping across the United States. At the same time, with new waterfowl science in hand and a growing awareness of the rapid loss and degradation of some of the most important waterfowl habitats in Mexico, some of DU's leaders expressed concern about what was occurring south of the border. But addressing habitat loss in Mexico was a significant challenge at that time. Mexico was a developing country, with large segments of its population focused on subsistence and economic survival. Conservation was a foreign concept to many citizens; a luxury to many others.
In 1969, DU's leaders collaborated with a group of sportsmen from Mexico City to lay the groundwork for the formation of an organization called Ducks Unlimited de Mexico, or DUMAC. In 1974, after several years of planning, DUMAC moved to Monterrey and was formally incorporated. DUMAC held its first board meeting that July, and thus became the final affiliate of the three DU organizations that now span North America.
DUMAC's Mexican board and staff brought a familiarity with their society and culture that helped them understand how best to tackle waterfowl and wetland conservation needs in their country. They knew that to be successful, they would need to work hand in hand with people in local communities, or ejidos, and help them see for themselves how conservation could benefit their day-to-day struggle to make a living.
Although the hunting community in Mexico has always been small, DUMAC created an awareness among the nation's sportsmen by including an insert in every box of Remington shotgun shells sold there. The insert carried a message about DUMAC's habitat conservation mission under the heading, "Building a Future."
In January 1975 DUMAC held its first fundraiser, in Mexico City. More than 510 people attended the event, including DU Inc. President Herman Taylor; Executive Vice President Dale Whitesell; DU leaders from chapters in Houston and San Antonio as well as La Jolla, California; artists David Maass and Guy Coheleach; and a host of dignitaries from the Mexican government. That banquet netted over $32,000 ($160,000 in 2013 dollars). In its first year, DUMAC signed up 1,703 members and raised $188,673 in revenue.
From its earliest days, one of DUMAC's greatest strengths has been its ability to raise revenue from diverse sources. Effectively leveraging these resources is another. DU Inc. contributed $25,000 in that first year to help build the continent-wide family of organizations, with the remainder coming from DUMAC members, major donors, and other sources. In 2013, about $250,000 from DU Inc. and major donors in the United States and Canada was leveraged approximately 10 times to achieve an annual operating budget of $2.6 million.
"In DUMAC, it's all about converting relatively few dollars into a disproportionate impact on waterfowl and other birds," Tomke said. "That's what Ducks Unlimited de Mexico has been doing for 40 years."