The United States has lost more than half of its original wetlands, and it continues to lose wetlands at a rate of about 80,000 acres per year. Wetlands are nature's most productive ecosystem. Ducks Unlimited, one of the most effective conservation organizations on Earth, is leading the way in preserving and restoring our wetland habitats.
You do not have to look far to see some of the fine work done by DU. In northwest Pennsylvania DU is, with several partners, using grants acquired through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to control invasive species, restore and enhance 392 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitat at four locations in the Lake Erie watershed. Funding came from two sources, $632,603 from Sustain Our Great Lakes, and $101,858 from the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture. Work will be done at Presque Isle State Park, Erie Bluffs State Park, Roderick Wildlife Reserve and Little Elk Creek Forest.
Just how significant is a 392-acre project when 80,000 acres is lost each year?
Take a closer look. Look at the Akeley Swamp, where DU was one of the partners in reviving the ecosystem.
Walk through any wetland habitat where you can see multitudes of wildlife species, blooming wildflowers, broods of ducks, warblers in the brush, flycatchers darting out from higher limbs to grab a meal. Rare and endangered plants and animals may be there, though it usually takes a trained set of eyes to see them.
Among other benefits of wetlands, they serve as buffers to storms, and they filter pollution which otherwise would get into our drinking water supply. One of the reasons that it seems as though floods are getting worse is because water just runs off of developed land, whereas it would seep into wetlands and forest lands.
DU is in our state capitols and in our national capitol giving voice to the wetland communities. This may be the most important role of DU, lobbying on behalf of wetlands and waterfowl, informing our elected representatives about the things that need to be done to protect the wetland habitat.
It was not so long ago that swamps were considered a waste of land. The government took a hand in draining swamps to be converted for agricultural use. One of the saddest examples was the draining of the Great Black Swamp, a huge wetland that extended 120 miles from east to west and 40 miles from north to south. It was mostly in northwestern Ohio and extended into Maryland.
A five-year study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that our loss of wetlands has been slowing. During the study period, from 2004 through 2009, the net wetlands loss was 62,300 acres. That compares with a loss the size of Rhode Island each year during the 1950s. But this does not mean the battle to save wetlands is won. Far from it, this is only less loss, not any addition.
DU was founded in 1937 by hunters. Today the organization helps bridge the gap between hunters and non-hunters by its efficiency and its goals.
Waterfowl hunters will appreciate a new web-based resource just for them. By going to waterfowl360.com you can find a wealth of information which includes migration maps, forecasted weather predictions and the latest hunting tips. There are articles and videos about decoy strategies, duck calling, retriever trailing, shooting and related topics. New contend will be added through the season.
This year DU has a "Double-Up" for the Ducks program, in which it is asking waterfowl hunters to buy two Duck Stamps instead of just the required one. Since 1991, buying power of the stamp had decreased 64%.
Join more than a million supporters of the world's largest and most effective wetlands and waterfowl conservation organization, a group which has saved more than 12-million acres of wetland habitat. You can join by going to their web site, www.ducks.org then click on Join Ducks Unlimited.