Organizers seek massive follow-up to ducks rally

Staff Writer

St. Paul — Les Jones, executive director of Minnesota Waterfowl
Association, received a couple of phone calls in the days after the
Ducks, Wetlands, and Clean Water Rally. The callers wanted to know
more about the group and its mission.

One caller told Jones he went to the rally, and it pushed him to
get involved in a conservation group.

“He had never been a member of MWA, but he was interested after
the rally,” said Jones, whose group signed up at least 325 new
members at the April 2 rally.

Other groups that had booths at the rally tell a similar story,
though apparently no group boosted its ranks as much as MWA. And
some groups say they could have taken donations or signed up new
members, if they had the capability at the rally to do it.

Dave Zentner, rally organizer, said that before the rally, many
people considered themselves hunters or anglers, but weren’t
involved in a formal group.

New members for some of the rally’s more than 40 supporting
groups is a sign that people believe they can make a difference,
Zentner said.

“People saw the rally as an opportunity to get involved,” he
said. “The organizations working together can make a
difference.”

In addition to bringing new members to MWA, the rally also
helped show members and non-members the group is digging out of its
financial hole, Jones said.

“It boosted the ranks,” Jones said. “But it also helped the
morale of our members to see that we were involved again and that
we are regaining some of the credibility that we had lost.”

Mark Herwig, of Pheasants Forever, which signed up about 75 new
members at the rally, said the importance of more people getting
involved in the various organizations is that it sends a message to
legislators that the average hunter wants to see change.

“Legislators are kind of used to hearing from the die-hards,”
Herwig said. “The importance of this thing was there was just a lot
of regular hunters.”

Neither Audubon Minnesota nor The Nature Conservancy were set up
to sign up new members, but people took about 100 membership
brochures from Audubon, said Mark Martell, director of bird
conservation for the group.

Tom Landwehr of TNC said about 20 people tried to donate money
to the group at the rally, but TNC couldn’t take it at the
time.

As well as having a booth at the rally, Ducks Unlimited also
held a meeting last week to explain the organization and gather new
volunteers and members.

More than 100 people attended and the group signed up “double
digits” worth of new members and volunteers at the rally and
meeting, said Joe Breidenbach, DU director of fundraising and
volunteer relations.

Rally group update

The groups that planned the rally are meeting next Wednesday to
discuss where to go next.

“We need to make sure all the groups that were there pre-rally
are there post-rally,” Zentner said.

The group will decide on a name, structure, and governance at
the meeting. In addition, it will discuss items to focus on.
Working toward a Missouri model of dedicated funding will be a main
focus, Zentner said.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 20, at the
Bloomington REI from noon to 3 p.m.

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