For the Ducks... The Promise of a New Year

A message to Team DU

There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. —C.S. Lewis

Perhaps not since America was "partying like it was 1999" have so many been so excited about turning the calendar forward a year. Back in '99 the only thing to fear was some weird bug called Y2K. Oh, for that to be our biggest worry today!

It is with high expectations that we look to 2021, to erase the painful memories of 2020 and to give us a fresh start to make up for all the events and experiences we lost last year. You should know that Team DU didn't just take a knee and run out the clock waiting for things to get better when the world changed last March. To the contrary, we learned new skills that will serve us and the broader conservation mission well in the years ahead. We have a record year for conservation delivery to beat, new guns and art of the year to auction and raffle in person again, and the first-ever Ducks Unlimited Expo (DUX) to put on for thousands of attendees in Fort Worth, Texas, in June. We have members to reactivate, new volunteers to recruit, and young hunters looking to be introduced to the wonders of waterfowling. There will be no rest for the weary here. The cause is too important, the threats too real, and the timing so urgent for us to accomplish all we can, while we can.

In the closing weeks of last year, we secured the largest conservation easement in the history of Ducks Unlimited. In the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, 27,000 acres will be permanently protected thanks to a generous donation by the DeLuca family. The University of Florida will hold title to the land, and the possibilities for research, teaching, outreach, and training the next generation of conservationists and ranchers are nearly endless. We are proud to be partners in this once-in-a-generation opportunity. We will have more on this tremendous gift in the future, so stay tuned.

One reason why DU has been and remains the leader in wetlands conservation is the quality of our people, especially our scientists. Our cover story provides an update on the complex issues impacting pintail populations and the subsequent harvest restrictions which frustrate so many hunters in places like the Central Valley of California, where the abundance of pintails makes it hard to aim for other species. (We are working on that, too.) The story is written by four PhD waterfowlers who are lifers at DU and highly regarded professionals in the field of waterfowl science. These guys can write for scientific journals or speak at your local banquet. They can serve on an international conservation planning consortium or call a mallard right into your lap. They are that good: experts in their field, respected by their peers, blessed with good walking-around sense, and they work for you at DU. So much of what we accomplish in a science-based organization like ours is due to their hard work, expertise, and genuine love of the mission.

The passion for the mission is the tie that binds all our staff and volunteers. The strong linkage between the two allowed us to find new ways to raise money, recruit members, and organize events and activities, and because of that, we were able to conserve more acres in a single year than ever before. The list of accomplishments from 2020 would be impressive in any year. In a global pandemic, it is breathtaking. The mission brings us together in good times and bad, attracts like-minded people to our cause, and delivers results our grandchildren's grandchildren will be grateful for. Until then, though, I remain grateful for you.

Happy 2021! I'll be seeing you soon—in person.