Ducks Unlimited is the world leader as a private organization dedicated to the conservation of both waterfowl and their critical wetland habitats. While this organization has a strong focus on responsible hunting, many birders and other conservationists support the fantastic efforts Ducks Unlimited promotes.
Ducks Unlimited was founded in 1937 by three sport hunters: Joseph Knapp, E.H. Low and Robert Winthrop. During the 1930s, the Dust Bowl decimated many wetland areas, and waterfowl populations fell drastically across North America. These three men sought to reverse that trend with focused conservation and habitat restoration efforts to ensure hunting and waterfowl enjoyment would be available for generations to come. Today, Ducks Unlimited is the largest non-profit, private organization for waterfowl and wetland conservation in the world.
What Ducks Unlimited Does Today
Ducks Unlimited has never wavered from its mission to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. To that end, the organization participates in a number of programs and initiatives partnering with individuals, landowners, scientific groups and more. The programs Ducks Unlimited participates in include:
- Habitat Conservation: The primary purpose of Ducks Unlimited is to protect and preserve habitat that benefits waterfowl, and this can be done in a variety of ways. The organization supports projects that restore and manage appropriate habitats, and will also buy land to restore and then donate to agencies that will continue to oversee the preserved habitat. Wetlands are essential habitat for waterfowl, but Ducks Unlimited also helps preserve woodlands and grasslands that provide alternative habitats, foraging areas and nesting grounds. To date, more than 12 million acres (18,750 square miles) have been successfully preserved, with projects in all 50 states, every Canadian province and key areas in Mexico and Latin America.
- Political Lobbying: Ducks Unlimited reviews legislation for its impact on waterfowl and wetland habitats, and actively supports the best legislation to benefit the birds and the organization's conservation mission. This review helps Ducks Unlimited members make informed choices about the legislation and politicians they support to increase conservation efforts at all levels of government, ensuring that tax dollars are also put to good use with waterfowl conservation and preservation.
- Hunting Regulation: At its heart, Ducks Unlimited is an organization that supports active waterfowl hunting, but only in responsible, safe ways with appropriate regulation so that hunted waterfowl populations are stable and never threatened by improper hunting practices. Hunter education helps raise awareness about the importance of proper conservation and preservation efforts so both the birds and the sport can coexist.
- Event Fundraising: Thousands of events each year are arranged through Ducks Unlimited, including presentations, dinners, conferences and conventions, all to help raise money to support the organization and its conservation efforts. From every dollar raised, a minimum of 80 cents is used to directly support conservation and education, and only three cents is put toward administrative needs.
With all of its programs, Ducks Unlimited pursues active monitoring and refinement to ensure its efforts are as effective as possible. As the needs of waterfowl change, so too do Ducks Unlimited's programs and practices to keep the organization at the forefront of effective and efficient conservation.
A Note About the Birds
It should be noted that while Ducks Unlimited focuses almost exclusively on waterfowl – ducks, geese and swans – many other bird species benefit from the organization's habitat conservation. Wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, sparrows, warblers and many other birds are also dependent on the wetland, forest and grassland habitats Ducks Unlimited preserves, and supporting the organization means supporting many more birds than just waterfowl.
Joining Ducks Unlimited
While many waterfowl hunters are members of Ducks Unlimited, so are many birders and conservationists who do not hunt. There are more than 580,000 members of the organization in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Individual membership costs $35, though donations of any amount are welcome and appreciated. Members receive a number of benefits, including a membership card, decals to display, a subscription to Ducks Unlimited Magazine and members-only access to the organization's website. Premium gifts are also offered to new members, such as a fleece jacket, though the exact premium offered can change.
Sponsor level memberships have additional benefits, with costs of $250 for bronze, $500 for silver and $1,000 for gold memberships. Gift memberships are available, and Ducks Unlimited accepts estate planning gifts and donations as well. Memberships can be purchased online or over the telephone at 1-800-45-DUCKS, and most major credit cards are accepted.
For more information, visit www.Ducks.org.
Photo – Northern Pintail Flock © Craig Bihrle / ND Fish and Game Department