After a dry, warm fall, winter descended on the Great Plains with a ROAR. Much of our region was blanketed by snow during the Christmas Holidays. Snowfall totals at our regional office in Bismarck are at their highest levels on record at this point of the season. Dealing with all this snow forces us to slow down, be more patient and reflect on our purposes and values.

In February, we were looking at breaking another record, this one for high temperatures. Many of the small, temporary and seasonal wetlands important to breeding ducks in the prairies dried out last summer. A robust snow melt to recharge these wetlands and fuel an explosion of aquatic invertebrates bodes well for waterfowl returning in the spring. Heavy runoff in the spring also has the potential to cause flooding and water quality issues in the communities of the Great Plains. This creates an opportunity for the organization to further elevate the Strategic Plan objective of focusing more on the water-based benefits of our conservation work. Wetlands are very effective at storing snowmelt and at purifying runoff as it moves downstream. We are at our best when we present the science in a thoughtful way that increases understanding while minimizing conflict.

The nuts and bolts of DUs work continues in a very professional and determined fashion. Both event and major gift fundraising are ahead of last year, despite regional economic challenges. This success is a reflection of committed teams of staff and volunteers sticking to the fundamentals. Conservation staff are busy surveying and designing projects so that construction can begin as soon as the ground thaws and can accommodate heavy machinery. Lands protection staff continue to service the great interest among landowners to enter into conservation easements to further their stewardship goals.

All of our states are in the midst of legislative sessions. Legislators help determine the size of state funds available for conservation as well as the availability of tools that landowners and conservation staff have to work with to further land stewardship. Our policy staff are working hard to stay abreast of bills and look for opportunities to further DUs mission through state-level policies. We hope you will heed their requests when they call on you to help promote legislation that can make a difference for conservation.

Stay warm and thanks for all that you do.