ANNADA, Mo. - Oct. 19, 2022 -Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrated the conservation work of St. Louis native John R. Belz (1941-2013) Saturday at Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) with a plaque dedication in his honor.

For more than 40 years, Belz served as a volunteer and a staff member at DU. He grew up hunting ducks in the Mississippi River backwaters at his family's hunting grounds near St. Louis, so it was no surprise that he championed the Big Rivers Initiative, an ongoing $25.6 million project to improve critical habitat along the Mississippi River floodplains and its network of tributaries.

Belz served in various DU volunteer roles, including St. Louis Sponsor Chair, Missouri State Chair, Senior Vice President of Development, National Secretary and on the DU National Board. He was a successful member of DU's development staff for more than 16 years and passed on his passion for wetland conservation to new team members. Along with support from his wife, Libby, one of Belz's greatest gifts to DU was his strong support for Missouri's Wetlands for Kids Day, inspired by his love for his grandchildren. Through this popular annual event, Belz and his fellow volunteers were instrumental in introducing thousands of children to the importance of wetland habitat and outdoor recreation.

"When you think about the most dedicated conservationists in this state, John R. Belz is one of the first names that comes to mind," said DU Missouri State Chairman Dennis Drummond. "He was a champion of the Missouri waterfowl stamp program and raised millions of dollars for duck habitat through his philanthropic work with DU's corporate contributors."

The 3,750-acre Clarence Cannon NWR is on the floodplain of the Mississippi River, adjacent to Pool No. 25 in Pike County. The refuge's diversity of habitats supports waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds and songbirds. Clarence Cannon also provides habitat for over 200 species of migratory birds and duck populations can exceed 100,000 during fall and spring migrations.

The newly named John R. Belz wetland (1,531 acres) improved water management capability and restored the refuge's natural water flow patterns and drainage regimes. his project included replacing an outdated and failing refuge pump station, reconfiguringing wetland management units, installinging wetland management units and installing a new water-control structure. This work aimed to restore natural water flow to the refuge while also reducing flood damage to levees during flood events. The results are improved habitat conditions and food resources for several priority wildlife species and a reduction in annual maintenance and costs associated with managing the refuge.

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About Ducks Unlimited
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit

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