Waterfowl are a continental resource that rely on habitat from their northern breeding grounds to their southern winter homes and all points in between. It takes a visionary to see beyond his backyard and support habitat conservation on a continental scale. Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation trustees Daryl and Mary Pennington of Ethel, Louisiana, are prime examples of such broadly committed sponsors, their generosity shining even more brightly given that Daryl and Mary began duck hunting less than 15 years ago.
The Penningtons were introduced to Ducks Unlimited by Dr. Ronal Roberson of Charleston, Mississippi, a Benefactor donor and former member of DU's board of directors.
"Daryl and Mary really 'get it' with respect to how everything is tied together, from the prairies to the coastal marshes," Ronal said. "They've always been outdoors people; now they're passionate waterfowlers, and they appreciate the work DU does and how DU leverages their contributions."
Daryl and Ronal now co-own a duck club in the Mississippi Delta, which they actively manage for waterfowl.
DU's partnership with the Baton Rouge-based Pennington Foundation began close to home with an impressive gift supporting DU's conservation work along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The disappearance of Louisiana's coastal wetlands is not a local or even regional problem. These expansive wetlands are a national treasure, providing habitat for millions of North America's wintering waterfowl, the foundation for tremendous seafood and shipping industries, and energy for the nation.
The Penningtons know firsthand the perils and challenges facing one of the most productive wetland systems on earth and one of the most important waterfowl wintering areas, and were impressed by DU's 25-year history of working in Louisiana.
"Because Ducks Unlimited stands apart as an organization both advocating for and actually delivering coastal restoration, the foundation made a $1 million pledge over five years to support DU's work to save America's most endangered wetland ecosystem," Mary said. "DU's ability to multiply our contributions and to efficiently deliver waterfowl habitat, as well as represent wetlands conservation interests in the policy and science arena, is impressive."
In 2008, the Penningtons traveled to the prairies to see where Louisiana's waterfowl are born. Witnessing the perils of the prairie breeding grounds firsthand made a big impression and prompted them to encourage a $350,000 grant from the foundation to support DU's conservation efforts on the Canadian and U.S. breeding grounds. That was a stretch for the Louisiana-focused foundation, but Daryl and Mary were persistent. Subsequently, DU has received an additional $500,000 for breeding ground habitat work.
"Mary and I visited the prairies and were very impressed by what we saw on our trip. We felt compelled to join Ducks Unlimited to help secure these important habitats in perpetuity," Daryl said.
This support helps DU protect and restore rolling grasslands in Saskatchewan, Canada, in one of the continent's most productive waterfowl breeding areas, and key prairie habitats in the Missouri Coteau region of North and South Dakota.
"We realize that an amazing number of ducks will continue to flourish if we protect both breeding and wintering grounds for waterfowl," Daryl continued.
Under Daryl and Mary's careful guidance, the Pennington Foundation is making a significant investment in North America's most critical waterfowl landscapes—from the "Duck Factory" of the prairies to the wintering grounds of coastal Louisiana.