Ducks Unlimited, partners earn U.S. Forest Service national award


  • Ducks Unlimited, partners earn U.S. Forest Service Wings Across the Americas Award.
  • Awarded for conserving over 4,000 acres in southern Illinois' vital Mississippi River floodplain.
  • The Mississippi River corridor is the main spring and fall migration route for millions of waterfowl and songbirds.
  • Photos, audio available below.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Feb. 22, 2016 – Ducks Unlimited, along with several conservation partners, was awarded the U.S. Forest Service's Wings Across the Americas Award for Habitat Management and Partnership.

The award recognizes 30 years of conservation on the Mississippi River floodplain in southern Illinois. Since 2009, the project has conserved more than 4,000 acres of bottomland wetland habitat using nearly $1.8 million in Ducks Unlimited, partner, grant and U.S. Forest Service funding.

Along with DU, partners on the project include the National Wild Turkey Federation, Heartland Conservancy and Kenneth Mezo, Grand Tower Township road commissioner. The U.S. Forest Service will present the award at a ceremony in Pittsburgh on March 16.

"Restoration efforts such as this show what happens when organizations work together," said DU Regional Biologist Michael Sertle. "It's provided us with terrific opportunities to work in these areas and bring back a fraction of the glory that they were before human disturbance."

The Mississippi River corridor is the main spring and fall migration route for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds, marshbirds and songbirds. The wetlands also provide important wintering habitat for a variety of wildlife species.

The elimination and destruction of bottomland wetland habitats along this floodplain have occurred at an alarming rate in the past 100 years, leaving only a small fraction of seasonally flooded bottomland habitat that once existed within this wetland landscape.

"You can't operate a restoration project like this without partners," said Allen Nicholas, forest supervisor at Shawnee National Forest. "Our partners bring the talent and knowledge necessary to improve the quality of this habitat."

A summary of recent habitat projects include:

  • 2014 to present: Ducks Unlimited collaborated with Shawnee National Forest and received a $250,000 Climate Change Adaptation Grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society. An estimated 814 acres of bottomland forested habitat will be restored or enhanced.
  • 2013 to present: Ducks Unlimited awarded a North American Wetland Conservation Act grant and contributes $1,000,000 toward wetland restoration and enhancement work. Additional partners include local landowner and farmer Bill Kuhnert who contributed more than $20,000 of in-kind matching services, and the Shawnee National Forest contributed $68,685. This project will result in the conservation of 2,890 acres of habitat.
  • 2012 to 2014: Shawnee National Forest, National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited conserve 883 acres of habitat. Forest service contributed $107,500, Ducks Unlimited provided $50,278 and Turkey Federation provided $40,500.
  • 2009 to 2014: Ducks Unlimited engineers and biologists worked with Shawnee National Forest to survey, design and restore 680 acres of seasonal forested and shrub-scrub wetland habitat. The project used $87,999 in federal funds, $66,923 of matching DU funds and $6,378 of Forest Service in-kind services.
  • Ongoing: DU and the Heartland Conservancy are leading an effort to acquire, restore and reforest sub-marginal farmlands within and adjacent to existing Shawnee National Forest lands for the future inclusion of these properties into the Shawnee National Forest.


Download an audio file of Chris Sebastian, Ducks Unlimited public affairs coordinator, talking about the U.S. Forest Service award.


Download high-res image

DU and partnering conservation organizations have conserved thousands of acres in southern Illinois, including here in Shawnee National Forest. 

Download high-res image

Working with our partner the U.S. Forest Service, DU has made Oakwood Bottoms in Jackson County, Illinois, more attractive to migrating ducks.

Download high-res image

DU contracted with local forestry consultants to thin bottomland hardwood habitat and to create small openings at Oakwood Bottoms in Jackson County, Illinois.


About Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.6 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit Connect with us on our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at and watch DU videos at

About the U.S. Forest Service

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands managed by the Forest Service contribute more than $13 billion to the national economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 818 million forested and woodland acres within the U.S., including 100 million acres of urban forests where most Americans live. For more information visit

Media contact:
Chris Sebastian
(734) 623-2017