By James Powell, Rich Smith, David Schuessler, and Ken Babcock

Ducks Unlimited's mission to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl is continental in scale and timeless in scope. To ensure our vision of habitat sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow, and forever, DU volunteers and other members have always generously given their time, energy, and money. DU invests these resources carefully to achieve the greatest benefit for this continent's waterfowl, other wildlife, and people.

While DU works in all 50 states and throughout Canada and Mexico, we focus our efforts and resources on the habitats that are most important to waterfowl, regardless of political boundaries. Working hand in hand, DU staff, volunteers, and partners take a continental, landscape-scale approach to wetlands and waterfowl conservation to ensure that all of our conservation priorities are supported. DU's science team has identified the most important landscapes to waterfowl across North America, including the Western Boreal Forest and the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States and Canada, California's Central Valley, the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, and the Gulf Coast of the United States and Mexico.

"Ducks Unlimited recognizes that other regions of this continent are also significant to wildlife and important to the people who live there," DU President George Dunklin Jr. says. "Over more than seven decades of conservation work, DU has always known that a strong base of supporters who understand the connection between waterfowl habitat in their own regions and other landscapes is the best way to ensure our continental success."

Ties to the National Business Plan

In April 2012, directed by Ducks Unlimited's strategic plan and specific objectives in DU's national business plan, Ducks Unlimited volunteers and staff began working on a new set of regional initiatives to link conservation and fundraising throughout the United States. These regional initiatives integrate the biology and science of waterfowl conservation with the motivations of those who support Ducks Unlimited.

Goals for these 16 regional initiatives were developed by leadership teams using region-specific surveys, focus groups, and other research. While the initiative boundaries encompass the entire United States, the primary focus will continue to be on priority waterfowl breeding and nonbreeding landscapes. The overall intent of these initiatives is to generate more philanthropic investment for waterfowl conservation in a manner that aligns donor interest with conservation priorities.

Covering All Regions of This Continent

The following regional initiatives (listed alphabetically) connect people and resources with crucial habitats, and recognize each region's role in sustaining the future of waterfowl.

  1. The Alaska Initiative-Born to Fly: Protecting one of the world's most pristine landscapes for breeding waterfowl-the vast wetlands and river deltas of the Alaskan wilderness.
  2. America's River Initiative: Rebuilding the glory of the lower Mississippi River floodplain by conserving key wintering habitats for millions of waterfowl and reinforcing the region's rich waterfowling legacy.
  3. Big Rivers Initiative: Restoring waterfowl feeding and resting areas along the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries and conserving vital habitat to support the grand passage of migratory waterfowl.
  4. Boreal Forest Initiative: Conserving North America's Boreal Forest, the world's largest remaining intact ecosystem, encompassing more than 1.5 billion acres of pristine forest, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and streams.
  5. California Wetlands Initiative: Restoring the health of the Golden State's historical wintering habitats and helping to provide sufficient water for waterfowl, other wildlife, and Californians.
  6. Completing the Cycle Initiative: Ensuring healthy habitat sufficient to sustain Atlantic Flyway waterfowl as they complete their annual migration and return to the breeding grounds each year.
  7. Ducks in the Desert Initiative: Restoring the vital wetland oases of America's desert landscapes for waterfowl, other wildlife, and communities across the West, from the Great Salt Lake to the lower Colorado River.
  8. Great Lakes Initiative: Protecting the waters of the Great Lakes and conserving vital habitat for the many waterfowl species that rely on this vast watershed during their annual cycle.
  9. Gulf Coast Initiative: Saving one of North America's most important waterfowl wintering habitats by conserving disappearing coastal prairies and marshes along the Gulf Coast.
  10. Heartland Heritage and Habitat Initiative: Providing innovative water solutions for ducks and people on the southern Great Plains, one of North America's most important waterfowl migration areas.
  11. Living Lakes Initiative: Conserving Minnesota's and Iowa's wetlands and shallow lakes, which serve as stepping stones for waterfowl migrating between their northern breeding grounds and southern wintering areas.
  12. Peaks to Prairies Initiative: Restoring wetlands in the shadow of America's iconic Rocky Mountains and conserving these vital habitats for waterfowlers and other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.
  13. Preserve Our Prairies Initiative: Conserving North America's highest-priority waterfowl breeding habitat-and bountiful fall flights of waterfowl-in the face of mounting threats.
  14. Southeast Wetlands Initiative: Supporting the rich outdoor heritage of the southeastern United States by conserving key habitats for Atlantic and eastern Mississippi Flyway waterfowl.
  15. Southern Prairies and Playas Initiative: Protecting, restoring, and enhancing the grasslands and wetlands of this region to support migrating waterfowl in the Central Flyway.
  16. Wings and Wetlands Initiative: Saving key waterfowl breeding, migration, and wintering habitats in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, many of which are threatened by rapidly growing urban populations.

From a continental perspective, dollars raised within each initiative will be spent within the following general categories: 1) conservation priorities for the initiative region, 2) breeding areas that produce waterfowl in that region, and 3) science and policy efforts vital to DU's conservation mission. Allocations among and within each of these categories will be determined each year based on opportunity and available funding from all sources.

Waterfowl are a continentally shared resource, and Ducks Unlimited has worked across North America since 1937 to conserve more than 13.1 million acres of wetlands and associated habitats to ensure a bright future for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters. By contributing to DU's regional initiatives, you will be conserving the breeding, migration, and wintering habitats most important to this continent's waterfowl populations. To learn more about DU's new regional initiatives, visit the DU website at

James Powell is director of communications, Rich Smith is national director of development, and David Schuessler is national director of grassroots fundraising at DU headquarters in Memphis. Ken Babcock recently retired as DU's senior director of conservation.

How You Can Help Making a gift to Ducks Unlimited is truly the greatest contribution you can provide for the future of North America's wetlands and waterfowl. As in the past, your contribution will be leveraged to achieve a conservation impact far beyond your initial gift. DU invests at least 80 cents of every dollar we receive in our conservation mission. Start making a difference today for wetlands and waterfowl, and leave a legacy of healthy habitat for future generations, by making a gift to one of DU's regional initiatives. For more information, contact the DU development director in your region (listed at or call Kathy McCollum at 901-758-3710.