At the end of the last ice age, melting glaciers gave rise to the Mississippi River system that drains more than a third of North America. This vast network of rivers and streams carried soil and nutrients downstream, depositing them throughout the Lower Mississippi River Valley, creating one of the most productive wetland systems on earth. This region historically was comprised of nearly 25 million acres of bottomland forest, much of which was flooded by backwater from the Mississippi River and its tributaries each winter.

Today, the seasonal winter and spring flooding so vital to waterfowl has been reduced by as much as 88 percent due to channelization and flood control. Additionally, the region has lost three-quarters of its forest cover and 50 to 88 percent of its wetlands to agriculture. The creation of Ducks Unlimited's America's River Initiative puts the opportunity to save the 5.5 million remaining forested wetland acres within our reach.

Since 1989, the Walker Foundation has been a substantial contributor to DU's conservation work in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), investing nearly $2 million in the region. Matching foundation dollars with other public and private funds has enabled numerous North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants and the opportunity to put thousands of acres on the ground in national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas across the valley and into Louisiana. The foundation has also helped DU refine and target our conservation work across the MAV.

Foundation President Will Walker III tells how the Walker Foundation and Ducks Unlimited first came together. "It started with my dad. He had a passion for conservation, and he got help from DU to do wetland restoration work on his own property," Will said. "After he sold his company, he created the foundation and started doing restorations on a larger scale. He invested in a couple properties and restored them with DU's help. We have had a great relationship with DU ever since."

Will says he's carried on his father's legacy of working with DU because he knows the impact will go well beyond the initial donation. "I like the way DU runs its business. The ability to leverage our dollars is a big incentive," Will explained. "Dad's focus was always here on the Southeast. There are not a lot of foundations doing conservation work here. Our partnership with DU allows us to be one of the few."

The Walker Foundation's story was featured in the 2013 Ducks Unlimited Annual Report. If you would like to learn more about supporting DU's America's River Initiative, please visit or call DU at (601) 956-1936 to speak with fundraising staff in your area.

For more information on becoming a DU Major Sponsor, please visit our Leadership Giving homepage or contact Senior Manager of Development Operations Anita Tyler at (901) 758-3871 or