Becoming a conservationist of prairie nesting habitat was something of a natural evolution for Dan Ray. Dan grew up near South Carolina's Santee Delta, known for its strong waterfowling heritage. But it was after he bought Annandale Plantation, with its 3,500 acres of marshes and waterfowl habitat, that Dan truly fell in love with waterfowling, and it was after meeting Ducks Unlimited staff that he began to understand the connection between the quality of waterfowling in the Santee Delta and conservation efforts on the northern prairies.

"The prairies are where we can make the most critical impact on waterfowl production and conservation," Dan said. "What happens there determines whether or not there will be duck hunting opportunities for myself, my kids, and for future generations here in South Carolina and the other wintering grounds throughout the southern United States. DU has a lot of great conservation efforts going on up there, and we need to support those efforts."

The Prairie Pothole Region, stretching from eastern South Dakota up into Canada, has been a high conservation priority since Ducks Unlimited's earliest days. This North American "Duck Factory" produces about 50 percent of the continent's waterfowl, with its large tracts of grassland dotted with wetlands. Today, prairie habitat is rapidly being converted to crop production. But with the help of donors like the Rays, Ducks Unlimited is working with landowners to protect these critical habitats.

Dan, now a member of DU's Wetlands America Trust board, got acquainted with Ducks Unlimited when he was looking for help protecting his plantation property at Annandale and advice on managing its waterfowl habitat. He also donated a conservation easement on the property to DU.

"We wanted to make sure the property would remain like it has been for the past 200-plus years, maintaining its incredible waterfowling heritage and natural beauty," Dan said.

The South Carolina Lowcountry is where Ducks Unlimited accepted its first conservation easement in 1991. The plantations in this area have provided great duck wintering habitat dating back to the early 1700s, when these lowlands were diked and converted to indigo and rice plantation properties. Soon after the Civil War, northern industrialists began purchasing and managing the plantations for duck hunting.

Dan is a managing director with Jefferies &Company and has been an investment banker for the past 20 years. In addition, he served on active duty in the U.S. Army for more than 10 years.

Dan has hosted several Ducks Unlimited hunts for wounded warriors at Annandale. Because of his years on active duty, he understands what it's like for service members to leave their families behind for extended deployments. "Some of these warriors have deployed for six, seven and eight combat missions," he said. "We wanted to show our appreciation for their sacrifice by sharing our community and waterfowling history with these brave men."

Dan has served on DU's Conservation Programs Committee. He has also been recognized as Conservation Pioneer DU Major Sponsors.

Dan appeared as featured donors in the 2012 Ducks Unlimited Annual Report, available online at

For more information on becoming a DU Major Donor, please visit our Leadership Giving homepage or contact Anita Tyler at (901) 758-3871.