Grant Brees resides on his own little piece of heaven in Benedicta, Maine. Reclusive black ducks make their home on the marshes he has built on his property with help from Ducks Unlimited and partners. Moose move about by day, and black bears by night. The home he built commands a view of cedar trees, hayfields, a vast garden, and a marsh.
Grant's journey to this hallowed piece of land began with a deep connection with wildlife and the outdoors as a child. "Our doctor used to come out to hunt on the Ohio farm where I grew up. I followed him around whenever I could," Grant remembered. "I talked my mom into letting me get my first shotgun. Doc was with me when I got my first rabbit. From there it was rabbits, pheasants, and squirrels - I was hooked on the outdoors!"
After graduating from the College of Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University, Grant moved to Portland, Maine, to work in an established veterinary practice. He fell in love with the state's huge open spaces and set his sights further north to Millinocket, where he opened his own practice in 1984.
Millinocket was where Grant first became involved with Ducks Unlimited as a volunteer. "What drew me to DU was my lifelong enjoyment of waterfowl and other animals," he said. "In 1985, I contacted a DU regional director and volunteered to start a committee in Millinocket.
"I was so impressed with the people I met at DU events over the years. I wanted to get the community involved in supporting the great work DU does. The more I got involved, the more I appreciated the work and the people."
Following a term as Maine state chairman in 1998 and 1999, Grant started looking for ways to continue giving back. "The wisest investment for me after retiring was to use a DU charitable annuity," he said. "It is a great way to help the organization in the long run and gives me peace of mind about my income. And when this good earth decides it doesn't need me anymore, the ducks will benefit."
In 2006, Grant became DU's first Feather Society planned gift member in Maine. In 2010, he was the first person in the state to set up a conservation easement with DU on his property. And in 2013, he became the first Mainer to set up a Life Estate Reserve with DU. This gift allows Grant lifetime use of his farm, while also giving him a charitable tax deduction. At Grant's passing, Ducks Unlimited will receive his property.
"The more time I spend with DU, the more I can see the importance of a healthy environment. You want to see the environment continue to be productive, and in many cases, restored," Grant said. "That is what DU is all about. I want to see the world better than when I came into it. Too much is being destroyed; if I can help restore or protect a little bit of it, that's a good thing."
After a long and successful veterinary career, Grant is living his dream - born all those years ago on his family's farm - of making a living off the land. And he's enjoying every minute of his true life's work: "I care for it and it cares for me," he said.
Grant's story was featured in the 2013 Ducks Unlimited Annual Report. Learn more about making DU part of your estate plan or joining the Feather Society online, or by contacting Managing Director of Gift Planning Jon Rich at (901) 758-3763 or firstname.lastname@example.org.