MEMPHIS, Tenn. - June 22, 2021 - Ducks Unlimited (DU) staff members recently received a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Regional Director&squo;s Honor Award for conservation work on the DeLuca Preserve in the USFWS South Atlantic-Gulf and Mississippi Basin.

Thanks to the generosity of Elisabeth DeLuca and a unique partnership with the University of Florida, Ducks Unlimited signed the largest easement in the organization's history late last year. Through the partnership, more than 27,000 acres of iconic Florida prairie and wetlands habitat are permanently protected at the headwaters of the Everglades. DU and the University of Florida will utilize the property for education, outdoor engagement and working-lands conservation.

"The Regional Director&squo;s Honor Award is given to our volunteers, partners and employees who have contributed to the accomplishments of the Service&squo;s mission and vision in the South Atlantic-Gulf and Mississippi Basin Interior Regions,&dquo; said USFWS Regional Director Leopoldo Miranda-Castro. "The DeLuca Preserve never would have happened without the tireless engagement of the Service&squo;s partners, the University of Florida and Ducks Unlimited. This partnership will connect, protect and sustain the lands for generations to come.&dquo;

DU Conservation staff members mentioned in the honor include Darin Blunck, Josh Green, Maggie Hines, Jerry Holden, Diana Iriate, Dale James, Ph.D, Anna Rollosson, Karen Waldrop, Ph.D, and Carol Ann May.

"The DeLuca preserve affords Ducks Unlimited the opportunity to not only protect wild things and this wild place but engages us in partnership with a flagship university in a way that will benefit both the University of Florida and DU for years to come,&dquo; said DU Southern Region Director of Operations Jerry Holden. "This recognition from the USFWS highlights the wildlife and social benefits this partnership provides.&dquo;

The land was donated to the University of Florida by Elisabeth DeLuca, and a conservation easement was set up through DU's land trust, Wetlands America Trust (WAT). In addition, the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Outdoor Fund provided critical funding via the Fish Wildlife Foundation of Florida to help endow Ducks Unlimited's permanent conservation easement and other costs associated with this once-a-generation gift of land.

The easement serves as a perfect launching pad for Ducks Unlimited's expanding conservation programs in Florida. While this is the first conservation easement held by DU and WAT in Florida, DU has conserved more than 33,000 acres in the state through other programs. This easement is also the largest in the history of Ducks Unlimited.

"The DeLuca Preserve is a one-of-a-kind example of wetlands conservation, and an international model for research, education and outreach,&dquo; DU Chief Conservation Officer Karen Waldrop said. "DU staff, our conservation partners and everyone involved in this monumental achievement deserves recognition for a job well done.&dquo;

For more information visit, and be sure to follow DU&squo;s news Twitter feed - @DUNews1937 - to get the most up-to-date news from 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 15 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

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