By Gregg Powers
Ducks Unlimited has a bold vision-wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever. DU's work also benefits many other wildlife species and provides clean water, recreational opportunities, and other ecological benefits for people. During the Wetlands for Tomorrow campaign, which was completed in 2010, DU raised $1.88 billion in support of its conservation mission. Thanks to the generosity of DU supporters like you, 2 million acres were conserved and more than 4,865 projects completed throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
But our work is far from over. Wetlands continue to be lost at an alarming rate. Ducks Unlimited Inc., Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Ducks Unlimited de Mexico, along with Wetlands America Trust, are committed to making our vision a reality through the new Rescue Our Wetlands campaign. The goal of this unprecedented DU campaign is to raise at least $2 billion through 2018. These funds will be used to conserve vital wetlands and other wildlife habitats on North America's most important waterfowl landscapes.
Rescue Our Wetlands focuses on five key priorities that are vital to the future of wetlands and waterfowl. Rarely have DU supporters had the opportunity to make a larger, more lasting impact at such a crucial moment in history.
The campaign priority at the heart of Rescue Our Wetlands is Waterfowl Forever, which recognizes that all DU members and supporters contribute directly to the success of the campaign and play a vital role in wetlands and waterfowl conservation.
The campaign priority at the heart of Rescue Our Wetlands is Waterfowl Forever, which recognizes that all DU members and supporters contribute directly to the success of the campaign and play a vital role in wetlands and waterfowl conservation. Unrestricted income, including monetary gifts, event proceeds, gifts of land, and other sources of unrestricted gifts allocated through Waterfowl Forever, will continue to ensure broad-based support for DU's mission to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl.
This support drives our on-the-ground conservation work and also allows DU to influence conservation policy, forge lasting partnerships, and provide the leverage needed for conservation success long into the future. Volunteers are the muscle behind DU's mission. Without their support, we would not be able to reach our conservation goals.
The Breeding Landscapes priority of Rescue Our Wetlands will protect and restore North America's most important waterfowl breeding habitats. For example, the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States and Canada is among the most productive waterfowl breeding areas on earth. In years when wetland conditions are favorable, up to two-thirds of all surveyed breeding ducks settle in this region, which is more familiarly known as the Duck Factory. Just to the north of the Prairie Pothole Region, Canada's vast Western Boreal Forest rivals the Duck Factory in its importance to waterfowl, supporting some 14 million breeding ducks and a multitude of other migratory birds. Unfortunately, prairie wetlands and associated grasslands continue to be cleared and drained, and the Boreal Forest is now under increasing pressure from various forms of natural resources development. Your support for Rescue Our Wetlands will help DU and its partners save these crucial breeding landscapes in the United States and Canada and maintain healthy waterfowl populations today and in the future.
Wintering and Migration Landscapes
Through the campaign's Wintering and Migration Landscapes priority, DU will protect and restore vital waterfowl wintering and staging habitats. The marshes along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast provide wintering and migration habitat for 95 percent of North America's gadwalls, 80 percent of its green-winged teal and redheads, and 60 percent of its lesser scaup. These incredibly productive, yet threatened wetlands also support economically important sport and commercial fisheries, and benefit nearby communities by serving as coastal buffers against hurricanes and tropical storms. Out west, the Pacific coast provides migration and wintering habitat for at least 7 million ducks, geese, and other wetland birds. In California alone, more than 95 percent of the Central Valley's seasonal wetlands and 90 percent of its stream corridors have been lost or degraded, and urbanization threatens many remaining wetlands, which provide crucial wintering habitat for northern pintails and other migratory birds. And along the Atlantic coast, wetlands, floodplain forests, marshes, bays, and estuaries provide vital habitat for wood ducks, American black ducks, and many other waterfowl species. Sadly, many of these landscapes are threatened by development and degraded water quality. With your help, Ducks Unlimited will be able to conserve vital wetlands in these important wintering and migration areas and help ensure that waterfowl will always have healthy, abundant habitat throughout their life cycle.
The Conservation Legacy priority will recognize endowment gifts and planned gift commitments, providing a more secure future for DU and its conservation work. DU spends at least 80 percent of every dollar on habitat conservation and conservation education. Maintaining that efficiency ratio is an important organizational objective. At the same time, DU must have a strong financial base to weather future economic downturns and invest in emerging conservation opportunities and scientific research programs. Endowed funds acquired through Rescue Our Wetlands will deliver results well beyond the campaign's lifespan.
The Conservation Education priority is dedicated to informing the public about the importance of wetlands and associated habitats. More than 900 wildlife species benefit from DU's wetlands conservation work, and wetlands and associated habitats conserved for waterfowl help ensure adequate water supplies, improve water quality, provide natural beauty and recreational opportunities, and help control flooding. Recruitment through conservation education and youth programs has never been more important to DU. A steady supply of new supporters will be required to ensure the long-term success of the organization and its conservation efforts.