Ducks Unlimited in northwest Pennsylvania is showing how greatly wetland habit benefits when a team of conservation experts, volunteers and supporters focus on an important conservation region.

French Creek is one of the most ecologically significant waterways in Pennsylvania. It contains more species of fish and freshwater mussels than any other comparably-sized stream in the Commonwealth and across the northeastern United States. Securing the vital habitat has stretched into many aspects of Ducks Unlimited.

Starting with conservation, Ducks Unlimited, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), a private landowner and National Wild Turkey Federation were awarded a $75,000 North American Wetland Conservation Act grant to acquire a 120-acre property in along Cussewago Creek, a French Creek major tributary, which is part of the French Creek Landscape Conservation Area.

That good work enabled Ducks Unlimited and partners French Creek Valley Conservancy (FCVC) and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to be awarded a $450,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to launch a land protection fund for the French Creek Watershed. The money will be used for future projects in the French Creek watershed.

Since acquiring the 120-acre property, Ducks Unlimited has moved ahead with two other NAWCA grants. A $100,000 grant will enable Ducks Unlimited, the WPC, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to acquire and permanently protect 74 acres of wetland, 81 acres of floodplain and 19 acres of associated upland habitat.

A second, $100,000 NAWCA grant will allow for the acquisition and protection of a 161-acre tract in Crawford County. Partners on that protection effort include the WPC, private landowner John Tautin and Crawford County Sportsmen's Council.

Numerous local volunteers also have joined the effort. Recently about a dozen Ducks Unlimited members supported FCVC's 25th Annual French Creek Cleanup, earning third place honors among non-corporate competitors for most weight of trash collected.

French Creek shows the true impact of conservation, fundraising, partner and volunteer support uniting for a common goal.