This issue of Ducks Unlimited magazine will be the last one in which I am privileged to communicate with you on a personal level. For nine years I have given you the best information I could about a myriad of issues facing Ducks Unlimited and conservation. Together, we have paid tribute to those who came before us. We have thanked those who sacrifice today to keep both our freedom and DU strong, and we have celebrated the arrival of new and phenomenal conservationists from all our youth programs. Finally, we have continually stressed the importance of following science in making our decisions.
Beginning July 1, a new and highly qualified CEO will begin to fully experience the exhilarating and humbling family that defines Ducks Unlimited. Adam Putnam came on board April 1 so we could have some overlap, and I could not be more pleased with the selection.
Too often we are focused on the challenges we face and don't take time to celebrate the successes we have been able to achieve together. Let's reflect on some of those.
In May 2010, I was blessed to begin my journey as your CEO and attended my first National Convention in Grapevine, Texas. At the same time, the Deepwater Horizon spill was ongoing and many of our volunteers wanted to mobilize to assist in bird cleaning and other efforts. Because we are who we are, DU people wanted "to do something!" But the DU way was to ask if we could create habitat on the ground to pull the birds out of harm's way when they arrived in August. So in June we visited with BP and our friends at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service and leveraged funding to create 70,000 acres of wetlands in three months! Those acres were created in southwest Louisiana, away from the harm of the oil, and when birds arrived in August they quickly moved from east to west and found this new habitat. As a result, hardly any ducks died from oil contamination. This is just one example of the quick and nimble capability our conservation staff exhibit on a regular basis.
In 2012, we announced Rescue Our Wetlands, the largest capital campaign in history for wetland and grassland conservation—$2 billion and over 2 million acres of conservation! Few, if any, believed we would achieve that goal. I invite you to the Hawaii National Convention to see just how wrong they were! Team DU helped reauthorize two Farm Bills, helped increase NAWCA funding by $8 million, got a much-needed increase in the price of the duck stamp, had the duck head displayed on seven NASCARs, saw the opening of the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid and the Waterfowling Heritage Center in Memphis, hosted a Supreme Court justice at our national convention, increased our annual revenues by 50 percent, and grew our corporate partnerships like never before. All this while eliminating our debt and increasing our unrestricted net assets! Nine consecutive years of meeting or exceeding all our annual goals!
You welcomed Sarah and me to be part of this wonderful family, just as I know you will for Adam and his wife, Melissa. We will always cherish the love and support you have given us. We will continue to volunteer for the greatest conservation organization on earth and give our full support to Adam as he leads us into the future. As he assumes that role, I know he will understand that the chair behind the desk is yours; we are just blessed to get to sit in it. May God Bless you always.
Chief Executive Officer