By Adam H. Putnam, Chief Executive Officer

Remember that time last March when you ate your last restaurant meal that had saltshakers and ketchup on the table instead of hand sanitizer, when you cheerfully made room for a stranger in an elevator, high-fived a whole bar after your team won, and your kids were out of the house all day in a place called school? Yes, it has been a long 10 years these past 12 months, and we have felt it acutely at DU. The dramatic reduction in personal connections hurts a flock of people whose souls need one another. More than just the awkward moment when someone offers a fist bump while the counterparty extends an elbow for the duck hunter crane dance, the pandemic has occupied our emotional bandwidth with second thoughts about routine errands and fear of even casual interactions with people we love.  

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend...
—Bruce Cockburn, 
Pacing the Cage

But, with the benefit of hindsight, and the confidence of duck hunters who brace themselves at the end of any disappointing season with the reassurance that there's always next year, we have bravely assembled an issue devoted to the forbidden fruit of 2020: Travel!

We don't know exactly when the new normal begins, and it might return gradually—more like a dimmer switch than a toggle—but we know that when it comes, you'll be armed with a list of trips you've conceived in the blind under an empty sky on a still morning. We have assembled ideas and local insights for you to fire up the RV, hit the road, and head out to places any waterfowler would love. The DU family will reunite once more and celebrate all we've done together, despite being apart.

Of the things we've done together, conserving wetlands for 84 years remains a crowning achievement that we build on each day. For many of those first eight decades, waterfowlers valued wetlands more than the rest of society. While others saw these ecosystems as disease ridden, nonproductive obstacles to "progress,” DU was hosting dinners and raising funds to invest in wetlands across the US and Canadian prairies and on the essential wintering grounds and migratory stopovers up and down the continent. What we knew then about the value of these places, corporate sustainability officers and foundations are now discovering and working to conserve not just for waterfowl, but for all the other benefits to people and other wildlife that are realized when our mission is successful.

We help farmers with nutrient reduction, we help coastlines become resilient with natural solutions, we filter water through marshes, and we recharge aquifers that supply thirsty cities. DU has proudly been a leader in this arena since our founding, and now we are being recognized for the science our biologists, engineers, and wildlife ecologists have pioneered. And we are being supported by those who love what we are doing for the ducks... and more. Our contributing editor, Eddie Nickens, has a terrific feature on this topic in this issue, and it parallels the launch of our Wetlands America magazine last year. Introducing more people to all the good things we do is important because it gives credit where it's due, to the hunters and anglers who've long invested in conservation through duck stamps, excise taxes, and donations of time and money to groups like DU. As more people learn that DU is making their lives better, whether they hunt or not, having rational conversations about sportsmen's issues might get a little easier.

Maybe all this sounds naive: travel plans and rational conversations... but I'm an optimist. I'm a duck hunter after all.