Spring is marked by the spectacle and sounds of migrating ducks, geese, cranes and swans as they make their annual flight across the region. The arrival of spring also helps recharge our batteries as busy conservation, fundraising, and policy professionals and reminds us of how important DU’s work is on the ground.
After a relatively dry fall and early winter, late winter snow storms and heavy rains have set the table for improved spring migration and breeding habitat conditions. The Great Plains includes important stop over and breeding areas for millions of waterfowl. Migrating birds pass through the Neck of the Hour Glass, that includes the Rainwater Basin and Platte River regions, in route to northern breeding grounds. Prairie wetlands thaw and begin teaming with life as waterfowl breeding pairs settle on them across the vast and productive landscape. These small prairie wetlands are the engine that drives continental waterfowl populations.
Spring is a busy time of year for our staff as construction projects commence and we spend more time in the field with private landowners and agency partners. Our conservation team is expected to restore or enhance almost 200,000 acres of essential waterfowl habitat and invest almost $27 million in public and private resources in fiscal year 20.
Nearly 65 percent of our annual fundraising events are hosted in the spring. This team is on track to raise more than $5.4 million in event income by the end of the fiscal year in June. Our development team hosts major donor field experiences and project tours to connect DU supporters to our conservation work and illustrate the impact of their generosity. Development staff projects more than $8.5 million in new cash and planned gifts will be secured by the end of the fiscal year.
Our Public Policy staff was busy with legislative sessions occurring in all seven states in the Great Plains Region. We worked on several key issues including initiatives to secure dedicated conservation funding in North Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska. We also hosted a fly-in, bringing eight volunteers to Washington, D.C., to meet with their Senators and Representatives.
With the dedication of our staff and generous support from DU members, volunteers, donors, and partners, the Great Plains Region will finish strong as we close out fiscal year 2019. The sights and sounds of the spring remind us that while we’ve achieved some great things together, there is still much more work to do.