"On Sunday afternoons during the spring migration, Mom, Dad, and I would load up the car and drive around the Rainwater Basin," Doug Frey recalls of his childhood in the small farming community of Grand Island, Nebraska. "The fields were full of sandhill cranes and the farm ponds were full of ducks as they migrated north."
After graduating high school, Doug left his rural Nebraska community to further his education and see the world. "I ended up spending more than 10 years traveling the world as a negotiator for a major oil company," Doug said. "I've seen lots of things on most people's bucket lists, but at the end of the day, the spring migration in Nebraska remains one of the greatest spectacles I've witnessed. Everyone should see it."
When Doug returned from his travels, he taught his children the importance of viewing wetlands through a global lens. "When my son and daughters were in grade school, I was working in the Amazon rain forest. When I came home, they would tell me they'd learned how the rain forest was critical because of its biodiversity, and that it was disappearing," Doug said. "Around the dinner table, we would discuss how the wetlands in North America were just as - or, in some cases, even more - important, yet there seemed little interest in saving them."
When Doug and his wife, Allison, returned to Grand Island for Doug's 40th high school reunion, Steve Donovan, manager of conservation programs for Nebraska, gave them a tour of DU projects in the area. "It was startling and sad to see how much habitat had been put into crop production and was now void of wildlife," Doug remembered.
But Allison's spirits were buoyed when she saw DU's work on the ground. "The DU projects are an oasis for wildlife in a sea of corn," she said. "We are pleased to associate with great people within DU who share an interest in saving this critical part of the world and restoring this habitat while we can."
When Doug started his small company in Midland, Texas, his world travels slowed and he and Allison quickly found a local DU chapter full of people passionate about saving the continent's important wetland habitats. Doug said, "It's not just about producing ducks, but preserving a healthy countryside, vibrant with wildlife, in which to spend time with friends and family and make a lifetime of memories."
Doug is also passionate about the outdoor traditions Ducks Unlimited works to uphold. He feels strongly that every DU member should take a new hunter out to the field this year. "Preferably a youngster," he said, "but some of our strongest members have come to DU later in their life."
With two daughters of their own, Doug and Allison believe it's very important to get young girls outdoors and involved with organizations like Ducks Unlimited. Over the years, they've seen the fruits of this effort on college campuses through DU's youth program. "The young women we've met are well educated and passionate about causes they believe in," Allison said. "These young people are our future. DU's success on college campuses in recent years is nothing short of fantastic."
Doug and Allison also stress the importance of sharing DU's message with our legislators in Washington, D.C., who have a significant impact on the future of wetlands conservation and our outdoor traditions. "By and large, the most important player in conservation is our own government. Working with and through the government, great things can be accomplished," Doug explained. "When you think about the impacts of the farm bill, its Conservation Reserve Program, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, you have to get involved."
Investing their resources in the future of wetlands and waterfowl, Doug and Allison proudly support DU's Boreal Forest Initiative as Gold Legacy Sponsors. Through this initiative, Ducks Unlimited is conserving critical habitat for the large percentage of North America's waterfowl population that utilizes the Western Boreal Forest of Canada and Alaska, including the waterfowl and shorebirds that pass through Doug and Allison's beloved Rainwater Basin each year.
"I first saw the Boreal when I was working on heavy oil and shale oil projects in Canada, and I thought how beautiful it was compared to most places that have oil and gas," Doug remembers. "Years later, when my son, Austin, and I drove to Anchorage, Alaska, from Lubbock, Texas, we had hours and hours to enjoy the quiet solitude and beauty of the Boreal. We would often break up the long drive by stopping to watch the many species of ducks on the ponds. The need to protect this landscape was obvious."
Through a mix of protection and sustainable development, Ducks Unlimited and a host of respected industry and conservation partners are working to maintain balance in the Boreal region. DU's Boreal Forest Initiative will contribute to this work, alongside the broader International Boreal Conservation Campaign, an ambitious billion-acre conservation effort that began more than a decade ago.
"It's hard for me to accept the extremist, hands-off solution that is strict preservation, because it fails to recognize the full potential of a resource," Doug said. "Smart people can manage development and preservation; that's why I like DU's approach in the Boreal."
The Freys' story was featured in the 2013 Ducks Unlimited Annual Report. If you would like to learn more about supporting DU's Boreal Forest Initiative, please visit www.ducks.org/BorealForestInitiative or call Managing Director of Development Steve Schmitt at (360) 991-7461.
For more information on becoming a DU Major Sponsor, please visit our Leadership Giving homepage or contact Senior Manager of Development Operations Anita Tyler at (901) 758-3871 or firstname.lastname@example.org.