Science: It's How We Make Decisions

Insights from DU CEO Dale Hall

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Photo © Mike Checkett, DU

 

Ducks Unlimited has been around for 80 years, and a strong dedication to following the science has been there from the beginning. In 1937, there were still many who believed that the best way to ensure birds for hunting was simply to raise them in captivity and release them. Our predecessor, the More Game Birds in America Foundation, also included the Gamekeepers School that would help teach landowners to raise and release birds for hunting, much like the European model. However, waterfowl science was making significant strides in understanding the life requisites of ducks and geese, and it was becoming clear that protecting and restoring the nesting-ground habitat was the most important action that could be taken for the birds' long-term survival and health. That habitat, they decided, was in Canada.

The founding fathers agreed to absorb More Game Birds in America into the new organization, Ducks Unlimited Incorporated. One year later, Ducks Unlimited Canada was formed to undertake the important habitat work on the Canadian prairies. But more significant than the merging of the two organizations was the shift in philosophy to follow the science. For several decades, Ducks Unlimited Inc. worked tirelessly to raise funds in the United States and send that money to DU Canada to restore and protect important nesting habitat. Then, once again, the science of habitat functions and species life requisites had evolved to strongly support the need to restore and protect habitat throughout the life cycle of the birds, which meant expanding the DU mission to include work in the United States and Mexico to secure important migration and wintering habitat. Today, in addition to the work we help support in Canada, there are approximately 500 DU conservation projects accomplished in the United States in any given year.

At Ducks Unlimited, we say that we came to DU because of our passion for waterfowl and wetlands, but we make our business decisions unemotionally, based on science and facts. Our conservation staff has long worked to identify the best science available to drive our decision making. By taking this approach, we are able to ensure that the funds raised in the name of conservation truly achieve our conservation mission. Each year, we commit that no less than 80 percent of all funds raised will be dedicated to mission delivery or conservation education. In fiscal year 2016, we achieved 84 percent efficiency and delivered nearly 250,000 acres of conservation in the United States alone. By remaining true to the best available science, we can be sure that the funds are going to the right places.

One of the important means for us to stay on top of evolving science is by having a chief scientist/chief biologist. Today, that person is Dr. Scott Yaich. Dr. Yaich has been a science leader at DU for over 15 years, but he will be retiring at the end of February after a phenomenal career in conservation, including work at both the federal and state levels. He will be replaced by Dr. Tom Moorman, who has been a recognized scientist with DU for 25 years and will no doubt help us stay on track to make our business decisions based on the best science that can be found. These two great professionals were preceded by Dale Humburg, Dr. Bruce Batt, and Jeff Nelson.  

Each of these highly trained professionals has had one major responsibility: to make sure the science we depend on at Ducks Unlimited is the best available. Our conservation success is the manifestation of their good work. Thank you!

Dale Hall, 
Chief Executive Officer