Ronal Roberson, Senior Vice President for Youth and Education on DU's national advisory board, was selected as the Mississippi Wildlife Federation's 2016 Conservationist of the Year.
Ronal's deep devotion to waterfowl began almost before he can recall.
"I grew up in the best place in the world to be a waterfowl hunter," Ronal said. "I've been going to a duck blind for more than 50 years. It's part of my heritage."
Raised in the Delta region of Mississippi, he seldom misses a day in the duck blind, though many days he never raises his gun. The sights and sounds of flocks coming in or the joy of watching others enjoy the sport he loves are often sufficient "harvest" for Ronal.
Ronal manages his property in Tallahatchie County to the best benefit of wildlife, particularly turkeys, doves and ducks. He is without question a dedicated and generous donor to Ducks Unlimited and an active DU volunteer for more than 40 years. But Ronal's greatest contribution to the future of our natural resources has been introducing hundreds of newcomers to waterfowl hunting and wetlands conservation.
With a particular zeal for involving youth in the outdoors, as Mississippi DU State Chairman, Ronal offered hunts in the famed Mississippi delta to bolster the fundraising efforts of surrounding states' DU chapters. Ronal provided lodging, food, hunting locations and guides for a parent and child. He made sure each child, some with physical or developmental challenges, had the chance to experience waterfowling.
In more recent years, Ronal was instrumental in the development of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks' Youth Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation Camp that DU partners on. He hosted the first event in 2010 at his lodge, teaching MDWFP staff and newer DU volunteers the ropes for holding such camps. He also ensured that the camp had a home going forward, and it's still going strong six years later. Ronal continues to volunteer for the camp, sharing the many ways anyone can give back and protect our natural resources for future generations.
"You don't have to be a wildlife biologist to contribute to conservation," Ronal says. You don't have to be rich, either. "It's not just all about the money. Being involved is the key. Sharing your time is the best way to impress upon people that you're truly committed. Time is one of our most precious resources, and giving that time to be part of other people's ‘firsts' is a blessing for both of you," Ronal said.
Because of his dedication and passion for youth, Ronal has been the Senior Vice President for Youth and Education on DU's national advisory board since 2013. His innumerable contributions have all been on his own time and his own dime. With the support of his wife, Patti, he gives generously of both to make sure that today's youth have the opportunity to experience the magic of waterfowl hunting and wetlands conservation.
Ronal was presented with the award on February 25 during the MWF's annual awards luncheon in Jackson, Mississippi.