Shelley & Craig Larson: A Lifelong, Science-driven Passion for the Prairies

Shelley & Craig Larson – Bismarck, North Dakota

© Garrett Johnson

The mixed-grass prairie is an ever-changing, rolling sea of life that nurtures an amazing diversity of wildlife and plants. Though this important landscape has seen its share of loss over time, Ducks Unlimited is working to provide future generations the chance to see vast, healthy tracts of prairie grasslands dotted with healthy wetlands. That is why DU Gold Benefactors Shelley and Craig Larson are supporting DU's Preserve Our Prairies Initiative. To listen to them tell of their affection for the waves of purple cone flower and blazing stars, you know they love this land.

Shelley grew up in Valley City, North Dakota, on the eastern edge of the Missouri Coteau - ground zero for the continent's best waterfowl habitat. "My grandparents had a farm in Minnesota, but they sold it before I came along," she said. "When I went hunting with my dad and grandfather, I saw that they still had great respect for the land, and I learned that respect from them. By enjoying the outdoors as much as possible - hunting, hiking, etc. - we are passing on this respect to our children."

Craig grew up in eastern North Dakota, but unlike Shelley, his love of hunting was self-taught. "I've been hunting since I was old enough to carry a gun," he explained, "but there are no hunters in my family - I came to it simply because I enjoyed being outdoors and the thrill of the hunt."

Craig attended his first Ducks Unlimited event in Bismarck in 1990, and he and Shelley's support has grown ever since. "DU's habitat work isn't just benefiting game birds; it is about the entire system of plants and animals that make up a healthy prairie ecosystem," Craig said. "With so many competing interests on the prairies, it is important to me that DU continues to study the interactions between all of these impacts and makes good decisions about how to restore a balance."

This belief and DU's comprehensive conservation strategies on the prairies are what led Craig and Shelley to support the Preserve our Prairies Initiative. "I'm most interested in natural resources issues that focus on restoring habitat," Craig said. "Maintaining healthy habitat is important for all wildlife, not just ducks. The science-based work DU does was a real draw for me."

Over the last few years, Shelley and Craig have had the opportunity to spend time with DU scientists in the field. "We both take a personal interest in what DU does," Shelley said. "We feel it is important to support DU in its efforts to make good scientific decisions."

The Larsons' story was featured in the 2013 Ducks Unlimited Annual Report. If you would like to learn more about supporting DU's Preserve Our Prairies Initiative, please visit or call DU at (701) 355-3500 to speak with fundraising staff in your area.

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