By Tucker Nelson

Ducks Unlimited is a grassroots organization that is supported in large part by our dedicated volunteers and members. DU relies heavily on membership support to reach not only our fundraising goals but also our public policy-and ultimately our conservation-objectives. At the 2017 National Convention in San Antonio, DU President Rogers Hoyt Jr. announced that one of the four pillars of his presidency would be advancing DU's public policy work. Hoyt challenged DU state chairs and other volunteer leaders to make the commitment to join him in Washington, D.C., for DU's first-ever volunteer public policy training and fly-in.

"I have been involved in this organization for more than 30 years, and public policy and advocacy have always been principal issues for me," Hoyt said. "Helping to ensure that our congressional leaders understand the role that our volunteers play is vital to me and a pillar of my presidency. No other conservation organization has the heart and passion that we have at Ducks Unlimited. When our volunteers come to Capitol Hill, our elected officials listen."

Under Hoyt's leadership, DU held its inaugural volunteer public policy training and fly-in in Washington, D.C., last December. Nearly 50 DU state chairs, state policy chairs, senior volunteers, and board members from 26 states gathered in the nation's capital to learn more about how they can advance DU's public policy priorities. The volunteers received training from DU's governmental affairs team, and attended a series of meetings on Capitol Hill. During the three-day event, DU volunteers had more than 100 office visits with congressional leaders, including key members of both the House and Senate leadership. These meetings focused on many of DU's top legislative priorities, such as the funding and reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and conservation provisions in the upcoming Farm Bill.

Perhaps the highlight of the event was a special reception, which was held in the Senate for members of Congress and their staffs and administration officials, as well as DU volunteers, staff, and corporate partners from a wide range of industries. More than 400 people attended the reception, which celebrated DU's 80th anniversary and conservation legacy. Given the overwhelming success of last year's volunteer public policy fly-in, planning is already under way for the next event.

Volunteers play a crucial role in the success of Ducks Unlimited. DU is fortunate to have in its volunteer ranks many dedicated public policy advocates, who build strong relationships with legislators and other elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels to help fulfill our conservation mission. Their continued advocacy is essential to Ducks Unlimited now and will remain so in the future.

Tucker Nelson is governmental affairs communications manager at DU's office in Washington, D.C.