We know how important women have been to every aspect of our culture and society. This is doubly true for conservation, hunting, fishing, and loving the outdoors. Most of us hunters got started in the sport by our father, uncle, brother, or other male friend as a thing "men do." I'm not sure how that view of hunting as an activity became so prevalent, but if we are to survive as a culture that loves the outdoors and treasures our right to hunt, we need to embrace the fact that the women in our lives drive our value system far more than the men do.

There isn't a lot of research literature on the social science of hunting. However, Mark Duda, author of The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports, emphasizes the importance of women in establishing our values. He states: "If a male parent hunted 10minus;19 days, the participation rate for sons (46 percent) and daughters (13 percent) was considerably less than if a female parent hunted 10minus;19 days; in that case, 64 percent of sons and an estimated 50 percent of daughters participated (Leonard 2007)." Clearly, the priorities of the matriarch of the family significantly influence the value system and family activities that are carried on throughout our lives.

At Ducks Unlimited, we know how important our female members and volunteers are to ensuring a future for conservation and leaving a legacy of nature for generations yet to be born. Two of our volunteers, Peggy Sundstrom and Jan Young, are leading an effort to recognize, recruit, and retain women in our ranks. Officially recognizing the importance of DU women, originally an idea by Jim Couch of DU Canada, has been kicked off in this issue of Ducks Unlimited magazine with the first in a series of interviews with women who are truly making a difference both at DU and in conservation (see page 34 in print issue). The purpose of this initiative is to engage women in support of the continental mission of DU, and is intended to be additive to and in alignment with DU's mission to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl.

Its mission is to encourage the development of female participation and leadership across the DU organizations, and to fulfill their potential as contributing members of DU. The core objectives are to: increase the participation of women at local, regional, and national levels of DU; support opportunities for women to assume and succeed in local, regional, and national leadership roles; develop leadership capacity among women involved with DU; grow the number of female volunteers and donors within DU; and enhance the capacity of DU to convert female members into philanthropists.

As it is with all aspects of DU operations, partnerships between volunteers and staff will be key to success, with identified staff and volunteer leaders in each region to serve on an informal advisory group to plan and implement these efforts. You will also see regular highlights of women's accomplishments in this magazine, on our website, and through social media.

The future of conservation in North America is highly dependent on the involvement in and the adoption of conservation as a significant family value in homes across this continent. We need to understand that others may support conservation for reasons other than hunting, but as long as our right to hunt is respected, they can bring much-needed support for our mission. Clean and abundant water, soil conservation, and healthy wildlife populations are among our most important objectives. Women will be critical to our success.

Dale Hall,
Chief Executive Officer