Randy Kleager advises those considering a Ducks Unlimited major sponsor gift to get out on a project site. Kleager has certainly followed his own advice.
"Randy is one of those few DU supporters involved in almost every facet of DU’s conservation work," said Terry Kostinec, DU director of development for Nebraska. "He has volunteered, contributed personal major donor support, is actively engaged in recruiting new donors and partnerships, has enrolled land he owns into DU programs and works for a company that has moved dirt for DU conservation projects. There are darn few as involved and committed as Randy."
As a kid, Randy was always doing stuff outside. Growing up in the Rainwater Basin region of Nebraska, he became an avid hunter. His uncle, a waterfowl biologist, would drag him along to see the spring crane migration. Randy became involved with Ducks Unlimited after he moved to western Nebraska and was introduced to Clive Ostenberg, a passionate outdoorsman who left DU a $1.5 million legacy to spend on western Nebraska habitat projects.
"When Clive passed away, we were challenged to come up with some projects to put that money to work in the Panhandle," Randy said. That challenge led to the formation of the conservation organization, Platte River Basin Environments, which worked to identify North Platte River projects and write grants for matching dollars to expand the impact of that gift.
"Back then, we flew over the area with one guy hanging out of the plane window with a camera, identifying wetlands projects," Randy said.
Randy has helped introduce Nebraskans to the importance of the Prairie Pothole Region by encouraging them to participate in a South Dakota DU Prairie Experience. "We opened some people’s eyes and showed them we are in a lot of trouble in the prairies," he said. "The Prairie Experience has shown me, if you screw up and lose habitat, you are never going to get it back. You may get back something, but it’s never going to be the way God made it, and He only made so much land."
Randy says attending the Prairie Experience also helped his wife, Karna, understand why he has a passion for conservation. "Before, she thought it was just about shooting more ducks. But by taking her up there, she could understand why I’m doing it for conservation," he said.
How does he explain his interest? "I want to see something done on the landscape that is going to last forever," he said.