On the way, though, we had an important side trip to take. I wanted to visit Big Grass Marsh, DU's first-ever wetland restoration project in Canada.
Ducks Unlimited was founded in 1937 by a small group of hunter-conservationists who were concerned about trends in wetland loss and a resulting decline in waterfowl numbers. These men understood that many of North America's ducks and geese are hatched on Canadian wetlands, so they set about raising funds to preserve these crucial habitats for the future of waterfowl and the sporting traditions cherished by waterfowlers.
Big Grass Marsh near Gladstone, Manitoba (west of Lake Manitoba), was their first undertaking. Originally spanning 100,000 acres, this marsh was drained and cleared for agriculture in the early 1900s. However, instead of the fertile fields local farmers had envisioned, Big Grass Marsh soon deteriorated into a desolate tract of silt and dust. In 1938 DU Canada restored more than 12,000 acres of the marsh, which remains an important waterfowl production and staging area.
Bob Grant met Scott and me in Gladstone and took us on a driving tour of Big Grass Marsh. As we stood on the bridge over the channel that supplies water to the marsh, I had a sense of reverence for the efforts of DU's founders and the millions of sportsmen and -women who over the past 75 years have worked selflessly to conserve this continent's wetlands and wildlife. Big Grass Marsh was the first step in a very long journey.