“Fortunately, it’s not all bad news . . . Private philanthropy, especially by Ducks Unlimited, generated significant financial support for wetlands acquisitions. Millions of additional acres of wetlands were restored and protected by the federal and state governments. The result: Waterfowl populations are booming today.” —John Fitzpatrick and Peter Marra, The New York Times, 2019
This fall, an article in the journal Science garnered international attention as it highlighted the staggering decline in bird numbers across North America. The study revealed nearly one third of all birds have disappeared in the past 50 years, a loss of 2.9 billion birds. Grassland birds were among the hardest hit, but the decline was spread broadly across 300 species, and throughout the continent. Birds are among the most studied animals by both scientists and nonscientists, and the technology has never been better to track populations and migration patterns, as we in the waterfowling world know so well.
The exceptions to this calamitous decline are as revealing as the shock of its scope: Duck and goose numbers have increased by 56 percent since 1970! Ducks Unlimited has applied science, grassroots pressure for dedicated funding, and sustained our commitment to a singleness of purpose—habitat. Together with a variety of partners, we are bucking the overall trend and downward spiral of avian populations. Our work is undeniably saving entire populations of bird species and ensuring the habitat will be there forever. But, we can’t let up in our fervor. In fact, we need to increase the pace and scale of habitat delivery by stemming the losses of native grasslands and wetlands across the continent. We need more partnerships with farmers and ranchers on the most important breeding and wintering grounds. Investments in research will strengthen our knowledge base and ensure that we work in the most important places, and outreach to the next generation will connect future conservationists to our mission. “Focus, Grasshopper!” was the mantra of the old man on the classic 1970s TV show Kung Fu. Our focus on habitat is delivering results for waterfowl populations, and we need to expand our reach, not just pat ourselves on the back, because we are still losing the landscape conversion fight.
In this issue, we offer up some gift ideas for your shopping pleasure, along with tips for scoring better hunts on public lands. We also celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the passage of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, an essential tool in our continental conservation success. If you’ve been to our Varsity and collegiate events, you’ve seen more young women joining our ranks, just as our banquets are more geared to the entire family. A DU board member, Dr. Christine Thomas, literally wrote the book on Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, and we feature her groundbreaking work.
This holiday season consider your own ability to accelerate our work. Give Ducks Unlimited memberships to family members and colleagues. Make sure all the children in your extended family are enrolled as Greenwings, and even better, make them Life Sponsors. Even your canine companion can join the fight to protect the landscape as a member of our Retriever Club.
Add DU to your end-of-the-year tax planning and giving, including our Feather Society. We are the most efficient, science-based, mud-turning, wetlands-restoring, waterfowl-population-growing, and proven-results-delivering conservation organization there is, and you can help us do even more.
‘Tis the Season to be in the woods and marshes, and to enjoy precious family time. As you reflect on your many blessings, and as the sun sets on another year, please resolve to do even more, through both time and treasure, to advance the cause of Ducks Unlimited. Time is of the essence.
From all of us at DU, Merry Christmas
and Happy Holidays!
Adam H. Putnam,
Chief Executive Officer