Wings Over Canada - How Ducks Became A
Prominent Feature In Canada
(Originally published in the the Merritt
take it for granted when we see large numbers of ducks of all shapes
and sizes congregating in city ponds, marshes, wetlands, and lakes or
geese flying overhead in their characteristic “V”
formation on their journey south.
So much so that it may be hard to imagine for the younger generation
that this has not always been the case. About 60 years ago waterfowl
were on the brink of extinction due to rapid urban expansion, pollution
and the creation of agricultural croplands, which contributed
to the disappearance of much of our wetlands – areas which
are critical to waterfowl as feeding
and breeding habitats.
As well, during the Dust Bowl years between 1930 and 1940, also known
as the Dirty 30’s, North America’s drought-plagued
waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows. A group of
dedicated sportsmen and conservationists decided not to sit idly by as
the continent’s waterfowl numbers continued to dwindle and so
founded an organization in 1937 that became known as Ducks Unlimited
Less than 2 years after that historical event Ducks Unlimited Canada
(DUC) was established in the year 1938. Considering that 70 percent of
all North American waterfowl originates from Canada this was a smart
conservation move. Since then other chapters have been established in
Latin America, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia, making DU the
largest waterfowl and wetland conservation organization in the world.
In North America alone DU has over 1,718 conservation projects running
on more than 2.8 million acres of land. In order to create new habitat
and restore wetlands more than 2,903 miles of shoreline has been
created and the cubic yards of earth moved exceeds more than one
million. The result of this massive undertaking didn’t take
long to show the desired results. By 1944 waterfowl populations rose
over 40% and have continued to rise up to the present day.
Waterfowl populations are now at their highest numbers ever. Ducks of
different species flying along one of North America’s four
major migration routes are estimated to be over 50 million strong. Add
to that an estimated population of several million geese of different
breeds and even the most oblivious among us will be impressed with the
Although Ducks Unlimited is primarily concerned with the conservation
of waterfowl and their habitat, its benefits are far wider reaching.
True to the DU motto, “It’s more than
ducks”, song and wading birds, deer, beaver, muskrats, moose
and bears among many other wildlife species have also benefited from
Of course wildlife are not the only ones to benefit from wetland and
marsh conservation. There are a vast array of plant species and insects
that thrive near and around wetlands. Wetlands and marshes are critical
to our rivers and lakes and with that to our fisheries and people. Far
to few people are aware what a wide reaching positive impact the
protection, conservation and reestablishment work of Ducks Unlimited
has on our wildlife, habitat and people. It’s more than
ducks. It’s an entire ecosystem.
As you can imagine ongoing conservation projects on such a grand scale
costs many millions of dollars. Ducks Unlimited relies entirely on
private money donations and fund raising events organized by volunteers
of the various chapters across Canada. To keep the running cost of such
a large organization at an absolute minimum DU only has a few employees
on the payroll. The rest are all volunteer workers.
Bill Otway, former Ducks Unlimited Provincial Chairman for six
consecutive years and eight years on the national board of Directors
told me recently that the organization spends over 90% of the money
raised directly on conservation programs. According to Bill this is
because: “Everybody, including the directors, are volunteers
and have to pay their own expenses out of their own pockets to attend
meetings, functions, and organization conventions.”
Bill also tells me that Ducks Unlimited has raised over one billion
dollars and is well into the second billion. No other conservation
organization in the world can match that conservation-funding feat.
Ducks Unlimited today conserves, restores, builds and maintains in
Canada alone over 6,679,810 acres of waterfowl habitat through
volunteer work provided by the 100,000 strong Canadian memberships.
Despite the unparalleled achievements of Ducks Unlimited in bringing
waterfowl back from near extinction to numbers never seen before the
battle is not over; wetland loss continues in Canada. As much as 70 per
cent of Canada’s original wetlands have been lost in some
areas of the country.
As more of our precious and delicate nature disappears forever under
the bulldozers it remains important to support the conservation efforts
of Ducks Unlimited in their never ending quest to conserve, restore and
maintain important habitat that ultimately will benefit all wildlife
and humans alike.
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