By William Palarski

This summer, I had the honor of being able to intern with Ducks Unlimited. Working as a mitigation and conservation programs intern, I was eager to explore the ways Ducks Unlimited works on the landscape to bring about more habitat for waterfowl

To start off, I worked with the mitigation crew, monitoring and enhancing various wetland mitigation sites across the Prairie Pothole Region. I observed firsthand how much impact restoring and enhancing wetlands really has on numbers of waterfowl. Land once barren to breeding waterfowl, was now able to support an incredible amount of life. In fact, while a colleague and I were leaving a site we had just finished seeding, we were stopped on the side of the road by a neighbor to our site. He explained before Ducks Unlimited began restoring the land, the amount of wildlife inhabiting the area was next to none. Now, with our restoration work almost complete, what had been marginal cropland was now home to four broods of Canada Geese, many breeding duck pairs, a host of shorebirds, and pheasants.

This kind of positivity and support from the public gave me an immense sense of pride and accomplishment. Not only was Ducks Unlimited providing critical habitat for many species of wildlife, people were also taking notice.

The second part of my internship, conservation programs, had me working with landowners and Ducks Unlimited conservation partners to deliver programs beneficial to both the landowners and the land. With the Working Grasslands Partnership Program, Ducks Unlimited helps ranchers establish grazing systems on their land. This helps ensure the land will stay in grass, and wetlands will not be drained. The program is great for ducks, and ranchers who can receive cost-share to install fence and watering systems.

Driving down the highway, the biologist I was working under pointed out at least half a dozen pastures that had almost become cropland but were still in grass because of this program. It was easy to see Ducks Unlimited has created a partnership with ranchers that will result in the conservation of thousands of acres of land and the addition of thousands of ducks into the landscape.

Interning with Ducks Unlimited really made me feel good about the future of waterfowl conservation. Witnessing the public support for wetland mitigation and ranchers working side-by-side with DU conservation programs gave me faith waterfowl habitat will continue to be conserved, and there will be ducks for many years to come.