Ducks Unlimited has a way of bringing people together across a number of boundaries and borders. One tremendous example of this “DU Family” is the close ties between Mississippi DU volunteers and Louisiana DU volunteer Mike Benge. Despite the good-natured competition between states for fundraising achievements, several Mississippians have stepped up their commitment to DU as part of the current Mike Benge Tribute.
“Not many people know it, but Mike was our State Campaign Chairman in the early 2000s during a time we had no one in Mississippi to step up and serve that role,” said MSDU State Chair Steven Bridwell. “He developed an aggressive program for us that put a strong concentration on major sponsors that is still thriving today, and his selfless dedication formed a lasting bond between MS and LA DU.”
Mike first became involved in Ducks Unlimited through the New Orleans chapter in 1978. During his 40 years with DU, Mike has served in a number of roles and exemplifies what it means to be a DU volunteer. He has served as the New Orleans Area Chairman since 1995 and was Louisiana State Chairman in 2005 – a very difficult year given hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
It was that difficulty that really forged Mike’s desire to make Louisiana the model for major gift fundraising in the US. On a larger scale, Mike has served on the DU Board, including as Senior Vice President of Development; he has also served on the Wetlands America Trust Board and the DU Canada Board. Mike is currently active on the DU Emeritus Board. Even after 40 years with the ducks, Mike remains active in local, state and national efforts and has made his work a family effort engaging his mother, spouse, children, grandchildren and niece in the DU family.
Mike is a true advocate for continental conservation and understands that the waterfowl he harvests in the fall begin their journey in the Canadian Prairies. Mike’s passion and dedication to continental conservation will be honored with the Mike Benge Major Sponsor Tribute in support of wetland conservation in the Canadian Prairies.
There is a strong migratory connection between the Louisiana marshes and the Canadian prairies. Millions of waterfowl that migrate south each year get their start in the prairie potholes of Saskatchewan. Mike’s dedication to continental waterfowl conservation will be recognized with a permanent cairn at the Sagin Project in the Missouri Coteau target area approximately 16 miles south of Avonlea, Saskatchewan. The area around the Sagin project has a predicted breeding pair density exceeding 50 pairs per square mile.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to see so many people come together and recognize one of the best volunteers and major sponsors DU has,” Bridwell said. “He pioneered the idea of tracking cumulative giving to leverage our competitive nature and get people to commit to higher levels of giving for conservation. We have already raised more than $700,000 across the continent as part of this tribute, and we hope to close out at one million dollars in Mike’s honor.”
Mike is the President and CEO of Delacroix Corporation, a privately held corporation based in New Orleans, LA managing 100,000 acres of coastal Louisiana property for oil and gas exploration, as well as, managing the surface rights for hunting, trapping and other recreational uses. Mike married the Honorable Joan S. Benge in 1977. Joan is a retired Judge of the 24th Judicial District Court in Louisiana and currently an Assistant District Attorney in Jefferson Parish. They have two daughters, Blaine and Fallon, and four grandchildren Braden, Caitlyn, Colton and Breanne. When not at a DU event, Mike and Joan are avid sports fans in New Orleans and can often be found at Saints or LSU football games or watching Pelican basketball.