Outdoors With Craig Robbins

Keeping Waterfowl Safe For The Next Generation

With the late waterfowl season — both ducks and geese — opening on Tuesday and running until Jan. 14, and Mother Nature starting to release her cold grip on Chautauqua County, we may be able to get in some big water action.

Recently I received word from my good friend Chris Jennings, who I have shared more than one cut corn field with here in Chautauqua County, regarding the Great Lakes Initiative.

Cool water, coastal wetlands and an appreciation for the outdoors define Ducks Unlimited’s Great Lakes Initiative area. The coastline of the five Great Lakes exceeds 10,000 miles and encircles approximately 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. Glaciers created a diversity of wetlands, shallow lakes, coastal estuaries and river flowages. Through the Great Lakes Initiative, DU will address all of these habitat types and provide abundant resources for continentally significant numbers of breeding, migrating, and wintering waterfowl.

It’s up to those in the Great Lakes states to support solutions for excessive inputs into wetlands, lakes, streams, and rivers resulting in substantial water quality issues. In addition, invasive species have degraded remaining habitat and new exotics threaten the region each year. More recently, declining lake levels are cause for considerable concern. Lower waterfowl and hunter numbers are the inevitable result of changes in Great Lakes habitat conditions. In Michigan, breeding mallard numbers have dropped 50 percent. Recent research suggests that mallard population growth is largely limited by brood survival, so the primary emphasis of breeding conservation programs has been on restoring complexes of wetlands with a mosaic of open-water and emergent vegetation on public and private lands.

An estimated 60 percent of historic wetlands have been lost in the Great Lakes Initiative area, and continued loss is estimated at 1 percent annually. The majority of that loss has occurred in key waterfowl landscapes and exceeds 90 percent in some areas. Loss of native prairie grasslands has been extreme, also exceeding 90 percent. Help curb and reverse this loss of critical wetlands and grasslands in the Great Lakes with working with DU’s Great Lakes Initiative and your local DU chapters.

The Great Lakes Initiative area is home to far more than just waterfowl and wetlands. The region holds vast human, political and philanthropic capital, accounting for 29 percent of the U.S. population and 31 percent of Ducks Unlimited members nationwide. The waterfowling tradition is strong within the region, which is home to nearly 30 percent of America’s active waterfowl hunters.

The residents of this region have an incredible sense of connection to their home to the Great Lakes themselves, the associated wetlands and wildlife habitat, and to the sense of community that ties them all together.

DU’s Five-Year Plan for the Great Lakes, is seeking to raise $6.9 million in philanthropic funds from generous donors to achieve conservation goals in the Great Lakes Initiative area. Funding derived from the Great Lakes Initiative enables Ducks Unlimited to conduct important science, public policy, and outreach efforts, as well as conserving the breeding habitats important to waterfowl utilizing this landscape. DU’s research and evaluation efforts are the foundation upon which our direct conservation programs and our policy and outreach work are based.

The focus of DU’s Great Lakes Initiative is to maximize benefits for continental waterfowl by restoring, enhancing, and protecting wetland complexes that include large marshes and shallow lakes on public and private lands throughout the watershed. These wetlands provide critical feeding and resting areas for waterfowl during spring and fall migration, as well as habitat for a number of waterfowl species that breed within the region. This initiative also recognizes that public policy impacts waterfowl as surely as weather does

Great Lakes Initiative at a glance are habitat delivery 35,000 acres, public revenue 42.6 million, philanthropic revenue: $6.9 million with a total goal of $49.5 million. These are big numbers but this is a huge undertaking. The states and provinces that are going to be affect are Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario.

The primary focus is to maximize benefits for migrating and breeding waterfowl by restoring, enhancing, and protecting wetland and grassland complexes that include coastal and riparian marshes and small interior wetlands on public and private lands throughout the Great Lakes watershed.

Migratory waterfowl are a shared continental resource and know no borders. Thus, DU must work across North America to ensure a bright future for waterfowl and the people who enjoy them. By working with DU’s Great Lakes Initiative, we will be supporting critical waterfowl habitat conservation in the Great Lakes Initiative area, as well as priority breeding grounds in the Prairie Pothole Region, Western Boreal Forest, and Atlantic Canada, where the vast majority of waterfowl are produced prior to making their way south each fall.

Christmas is meant to celebrate a birthday, the birthday of Jesus Christ. During the upcoming holiday season, it’s important to spend time with friends and family. From the Robbins household we all would like to wish you and your’s a happy and safe holiday.