Where Ducks Come From

We brethren of the waterfowling world see plenty of each other at boat landings, gas stations and cafés in proximity to popular waterfowl-hunting destinations. Tipping our caps, we might be of the assumption that we all have the same investment in the resource, both emotionally and intellectually. But apparently this is a mostly false premise.
One might assume that most duck hunters are aware of specifically where ducks come from and the challenges those habitats face today, but don’t count on it. One might also assume that hunters know where the $25 spent on the required Federal Duck Stamp goes. Surprisingly, a recently released Human Dimensions of Wildlife study revealed that a majority of waterfowlers responded that they did not know how duck stamp funds were spent. We detail more about the study in this issue on page 9.
The study was conducted in two parts, 13 years apart (2002 and 2015), enabling researchers to conclude that over time the percentage of hunters who selected no answer other than “Don’t know or are not sure how the funds are used” increased by 6 percent from 2002 to the 2015 version. Scores are obviously going in the wrong direction.
These results are disconcerting, considering the challenges ducks face today. On our breeding grounds, wholesale land conversion is threatening future fall flights, and waterfowl hunters are needed to stand up as conservationists. Still, it’s hard to blame the hunters in the survey for lack of knowledge. Perhaps it’s just not talked up enough.
The fact is, for those interested in sharing it, that 98 percent of duck stamp funds are used to purchase and enhance habitat on wetlands.
Obviously, the USFWS and state agencies need to do more to make waterfowl hunters aware of just how positively duck stamp purchases affect conservation efforts directed at waterfowl. Thanks almost wholly to duck hunters, more than $850 million has been produced through duck stamp sales to date for wetland habitats.
I’m a hunter and a conservationist, and I’ve found by experience that in some circles those two labels are considered in conflict. I disagree. Hunting has brought me a deeper respect and understanding of the natural world. Ecology has taught me that natural systems are fragile and interdependent.
Living most of my life on the edge of the prairies, I’ve personally watched the destruction of dozens of my favorite duck marshes. Witnessing such short-sighted land uses has motivated me, over the years, to make others more aware of what, for better or worse, will become our society’s wildlife legacy. “Remember where ducks come from!” I often suggest to those I meet who are most enamored with bounteous fall flights, because, whether we are acutely aware, casually interested or completely oblivious, the assault on wetlands is persistent and will be ultimately disastrous.
But being aware would be enormously helpful.