After a long, cold winter across much of the Great Plains, the signs of spring are a welcome sight! Canada and snow geese are making their way up the Missouri River in the Dakotas and ducks are stacking up in the Rainwater Basin and Cheyenne Bottoms.

Thus far, the Prairie Pothole breeding grounds are short on moisture with most areas running below normal in snow fall amounts. The exceptions containing higher snow amounts are the Montana Hi-Line and Alberta Parklands. Although it is a healthy process for wetlands to dry out periodically so they can recycle nutrients and sprout new lush vegetation, prairie droughts can be hard on waterfowl and sportspeople. Time will tell how long this current drought will last.

Despite economic challenges in the agriculture and energy sectors, DUs fundraising teams in the Great Plains continue to do well and exceed budgets. The Great Plains produced both the DU Regional Director and Development Director of the Year last year. Congratulations to Erik Wettersten and Kirk Davidson and the great volunteers they work with to deliver conservation funding.

Four out of our regions seven State Campaign Committees (South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and North Dakota) will be recognized at DUs National Convention in Indianapolis this May for their strong performance during 2017. Its important we continue this growth and momentum in 2018 and beyond.

Across the Great Plains, DU is a leader in designing conservation programs and delivering superior results. Our easement partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has protected more than 500,000 acres of high quality breeding habitat in the last seven years. Our recently launched soil health initiative is resonating well with Dakota farmers who want to enhance their land stewardship and economic sustainability. We see many opportunities to conserve large blocks of habitat across the grasslands of Montana. Our work with playa lakes in western Kansas is helping local communities address declining drinking water aquifers, while also providing increased waterfowl habitat. In the Rainwater Basin, we are making great strides to restore lost wetlands and create a long-term solution to provide water to those wetlands during peak migration periods. Were also growing a strong conservation footprint along the Platte River in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. We are working to address uncertainties caused by new landscape disturbances with a robust science program for the region.

We continue to see challenges in the public policy arena from those who want to limit voluntary conservation tools and drain wetlands, despite strong interest for these options among landowners. Our staff and volunteers have countered these efforts in the past, but we must remain vigilant as we have seen the consequences of broad-scale wetland drainage with our neighboring states to the east. Wetland drainage results in polluted water, downstream flooding, simplified economies, reduced recreational opportunities and a permanent drought for waterfowl. As the leaders in wetlands conservation, we must continue to counter threats to these critical natural resources. We are well-positioned to overcome these challenges thanks to our dedicated staff, volunteers and partners. Thanks for sharing your time, talents and treasure in DUs noble cause.

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Dr. Steve Adair, Director of Operations, Great Plains Region

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Eric Lindstrom, Managing Director of Development

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Greg Dinkel, Director of Fundraising &Volunteer Relations

Carmen Miller, Director of Public Policy