Ducks Unlimited celebrates 12th-annual World Wetlands Day

Millions of acres of wetlands unprotected from pollution

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Feb. 2, 2009 – Conservationists across the globe are celebrating World Wetlands Day, recognizing the importance of these valuable ecosystems for humans and wildlife alike. President Obama made a commitment to providing clean water all over the world, and each year, government agencies and conservation groups worldwide set aside Feb. 2 as a day to raise public awareness about the benefits of wetlands to water quality.

This year's theme, "Upstream, Downstream," is intended to demonstrate how water systems are connected, and that what happens in one part of a watershed affects other parts. Ducks Unlimited's wetlands conservation and restoration work across North America has been protecting watersheds for more than 70 years and has provided more than 12 million acres of waterfowl and wildlife habitat.

"Wetlands are some of nature's most productive ecosystems, but we're losing these precious natural resources at an alarming rate," said Don Young, executive vice president of Ducks Unlimited. "World Wetlands Day is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands, and the need to protect them for the benefit of people, waterfowl and other wildlife."

Wetlands across the United States are in increasing danger of being polluted. Because of recent regulatory changes, many wetlands are no longer protected by the Clean Water Act. These geographically isolated wetlands, including many prairie potholes and playa lakes, make up some of the most important habitats for waterfowl, as well being critical for agriculture and drinking water. Today more than 20 million acres of wetlands are unprotected from dumping and fouling by pollutants.

Ducks Unlimited staff and volunteers in Washington, D.C., and across the nation are working with Congress and state and federal government agencies, and have supported legislation in Congress to restore these protections. More than half of America's original wetlands have been lost already, and the country continues to lose more than 80,000 acres of wetlands every year.

"Wetlands act as sponges – soaking up water and filtering out harmful pollutants," said Young. "During times of flooding, they can store vast amounts of flood waters and slow storm surges, then provide a source of water during times of drought. In addition, they provide the best habitat for waterfowl at all stages of life, as well as recreational opportunities for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Wetlands are by far our most important and imperiled ecosystems, and we must do all we can to conserve them."

For more information on DU's efforts to protect isolated wetlands, please see

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature's most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres important to waterfowl each year.

Neil Shader