PITTSBURGH, Penn. – March 13, 2023 – Ducks Unlimited (DU) has long been committed to recruiting and activating the next generation of hunter-conservationists by providing targeted programs that cater to young outdoor enthusiasts. One of the most successful initiatives has been Ducks University, college chapters that play an increasingly important role in DU’s mission. But we need to engage with more young conservation-minded people. To accomplish that, DU has partnered with the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which recently awarded a $219,000 grant to staff a Youth Engagement Coordinator in Region 6, a 13-state region that stretches as far west as Ohio and Pennsylvania and east to Maine.
The Youth Engagement Coordinator will grow DU’s youth shooting sports programs, R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters), and awareness of Ducks University, DU’s college chapter program, assisting with volunteer recruitment and chapter expansion.
“The college chapters are designed to engage students in hunting and outdoor activities, while also providing leadership opportunities and conserving wetland landscapes,” said Justin Aycock, DU’s manager of youth engagement programs. “They create a sense of community and camaraderie around DU’s mission, hunting and outdoor experiences through mentorship, peer interactions and hosting events to raise awareness and fund conservation.”
In addition to the Youth Engagement Coordinator role, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which has been invested in our nation’s outdoorsmen and women and environmental heritage since 1947, also made a generous $100,000 gift to restore public wetlands in Pennsylvania. The state is revamping infrastructure on state game lands.
“Ducks Unlimited is one of our longest-standing conservation partners,” said Foundation Director Sam Reiman, whose organization distributed $152 million in grants last year. “More than 75 years ago, our trustees approved a grant to Ducks Unlimited at the Foundation’s very first board meeting. We have been proud to partner with Ducks Unlimited ever since and we are eager to see the positive benefits they hope to generate with this latest funding.”
While this role will be focused on all aspects of R3 throughout the region, the main focus will be Ducks University, which began in 1984 with the formation of two chapters at the University of Texas and Louisiana State University. Since then, the number of active chapters in the U.S. has steadily increased. In 2022, 90 active chapters were responsible for raising $2.3 million dollars in funding for wetland conservation. An annual highlight of the program is Third Term, a collegiate leadership summit held in July at DU National Headquarters in Memphis, where college volunteers from across the country come to learn about conservation, leadership skills, and fundraising techniques.
“DU's University program has, and will continue to, empower individuals who want to experience the outdoors for themselves through continued engagement in a sustainable network of peers who share a passion for wetlands, wildlife, and passing the outdoor traditions on to the next generation,” said DU Director of Development Ron Zega.
Strong and vibrant collegiate programs are the key to a healthy future for wetlands conservation. The goal is for college students to continue their conservation work long after graduation, becoming a part of an existing local chapter or founding a new one. DU is committed to expanding opportunities for students of all backgrounds, meeting young people where they are and working towards being inclusive of everyone. That would not be possible without our partnership and the generosity of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
“I think the Ducks University program is critical to saving wetlands and promoting hunter access for future generations,” said Haley Faith, DU youth engagement coordinator in New Jersey. “If we want this program to remain as successful as it has been in the past, then we have to look towards the future, and that means recruiting from a larger, more diverse pool of young people to join our ranks.”
For more information, visit www.ducks.org, and be sure to Follow DU’s Twitter feed – @DucksUnlimited and @DUConserve – to get the most up-to-date news from Ducks Unlimited.
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 www.ducks.org.