By Director of the Great Plains Region Steve Adair

Across the Great Plains, the mornings are getting colder, the leaves are changing colors and the sky is filled with the sights and sounds of migrating waterfowl. This is a favorite time of year for Ducks Unlimited staff and supporters as we enjoy the bounty that we work hard throughout the year to sustain.

Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) was an excellent year for the Great Plains Region. Despite a softening agriculture economy, our events were able to slightly exceed budget targets. Member and volunteer numbers continued to grow indicating a strong foundation of support in the future. Major gift cash was ahead of budget, while major gift commitments were on target at 97 percent of the goal. In total, our staff and supporters helped secure more than $6 million in new cash and planned gift commitments. Strong teamwork among staff and donors resulted in record attendance at the June 2018 Prairie Experience and other experiences across the region continue to impact supporters in deep and meaningful ways.

FY18 was a record year for conservation delivery with more than 308,000 acres impacted in the Great Plains including more than 100,000 acres of permanent easements in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR). Public income was significantly below budget and staff continue to refine goals in this area to improve performance in the future.

In Montana, years of work building program offerings and landowner relationships along the Hi-Line resulted in almost 40,000 acres conserved including 8,000 acres of Wetland Reserve Easements. In the Dakotas, landowner interest in our soil health efforts continues to gain steam. These regenerative agricultural practices hold great promise in rebuilding depleted soils, enhancing wildlife habitat and improving the lives of farm families and rural communities.

In our migration states of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming we continue to deliver wetland habitat to sustain migrating waterfowl as well as to serve people through increased recreational venues and groundwater replenishment. We secured $13 million in public grants for future work in our migration states providing a strong foundation for ongoing efforts. Wetland mitigation continues to give a positive return on investment in North Dakota and we are expanding opportunities in South Dakota and Kansas.

Our science and planning team continues to investigate the impacts of intensifying agriculture and energy development on breeding waterfowl populations and their reproductive success. We will use the results of this research to inform any changes we may need to make in our conservation delivery and priorities. Our policy program secured new funding and improved conservation tools in Colorado during the past legislative session. In the Dakotas, ongoing attacks on permanent easements and Swampbuster to facilitate wetland drainage will keep us busy well into the future. It is important that we increase our media efforts to help the public learn more about the importance of wetlands to their quality of life and the consequences of wetland drainage.

Please take a moment to celebrate the successes of this past year. Take some time off to get out this fall and enjoy the tremendous wildlife resources the Great Plains provides. And then come back recharged and ready to tackle the challenges before us to ensure that we have wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl and to improve the lives of people across our region.


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