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And so It Begins

The idea for Ducks Unlimited was born by the winds that created the Dust Bowl. Untold acres of wetland habitat vanished in the 1930s, taking with them the promise of generations of waterfowl. In 1937, a small group of conservationists who realized that the majority of North America's waterfowl breed in the Canadian prairies, organized to raise money in the United States for waterfowl conservation in Canada.

It was the unique idea that became Ducks Unlimited.

A New Era in Conservation

Given Ducks Unlimited's phenomenal growth during the 1970s and 1980s, it was almost inevitable that its mission would also expand in scope, and DU had the financial wherewithal to do it. There was a growing movement in the United States for an increase in habitat work to benefit ducks locally, especially in those states that contributed significant numbers of ducks to the continental population, such as AlaskaMinnesota, Montana, and the Dakotas. DU had already launched Ducks Unlimited de Mexico in 1970 to conserve important waterfowl wintering habitat south of the border. In 1984 DU launched its U.S. habitat program, which was a logical extension of DU's longstanding efforts to conserve and enhance the most important wetlands to waterfowl in Canada and Mexico.

Fundraising Takes Flight

Just as it had at the inception of Ducks Unlimited, drought once again hit the prairie nesting grounds with a vengeance during the early 1960s. As waterfowl populations plummeted to the lowest levels since the Dirty Thirties, severe regulatory restrictions hit waterfowlers in America. Duck stamp sales tumbled to a low not seen in 24 years, dropping to 1,140,987, which barely surpassed the total sold back in 1938.

The Ducks Bounce Back

The prairie drought finally broke in the spring of 1994. Formerly arid potholes, sloughs, and marshes filled with snowmelt and stayed brimful well into summer. And the ducks responded. Mallard numbers were up 22 percent over the previous year's estimate, and the pintail breeding population soared 45 percent. In fact, of the 10 most abundant species in the spring survey all showed significant breeding population increases. If there was ever any doubt that DU's philosophy of restoring waterfowl populations via habitat conservation was sound, the remarkable duck comeback of the mid-1990s offered living proof. Provide a healthy landscape, as DU had so often stated throughout its history, and ducks would flourish.