Delta Waterfowl expands conservation efforts in Great Lakes

Bismarck, N.D. — Calling it a conservation priority region for ducks and duck hunters, the Delta Waterfowl Foundation has announced a new waterfowl conservation plan for the Great Lakes, one of North America’s most threatened habitats.

According to a press release, Delta Waterfowl’s Great Lakes Initiative will focus on wetlands conservation, research, education, duck production programs, and hunting advocacy “throughout the Great Lakes region to serve the needs of waterfowl and waterfowl hunters.”

“The Great Lakes region has a rich history and long-standing tradition of waterfowl hunting,” said Dr. Scott Petrie, Delta’s chief executive officer. “If you are living in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, Delta’s program delivery through the Great Lakes Initiative will benefit you.”

Petrie said the Great Lakes region is unique because it provides habitat for millions of waterfowl throughout the year. That includes, he said, about 7 million spring migrants, 12 million fall migrants, and about 1 million wintering birds.

“It supports a large population of breeding waterfowl, and up to 80 percent of mallards taken by hunters there are hatched in the Great Lakes,” Petrie said of the region. “It’s an important region of our overall organizational mission.”

However, Petrie said habitat problems in the Great Lakes area of Canada and the U.S. are a clear and present danger to ducks and duck hunters. According to Petrie, roughly 90 percent of the “historic inland and coast wetlands” have been drained. Delta’s North American policy team, he said, will push for strong wetland protections at the federal, state, provincial, and local levels.

“Anything we can do to influence policy to stop drainage, we will do,” Petrie said. “We will also conduct applied research in the region to aid the conservation and management of waterfowl in the Great Lakes. Both are critically important components to what we’re trying to achieve in the region.”

In addition to wetlands advocacy and applied research, Delta Waterfowl’s first-year goals include expanding its duck-production programs (hen houses and wood duck boxes) increasing youth hunter education through First Hunt, the organization’s hunter recruitment and retention program, and promoting hunting rights and trapping. The goal in Ontario is to develop additional local Delta Waterfowl chapters to help  with fundraising and the organization’s overall effort to deliver youth education and duck production programs.

According to Petrie, Delta will hold and teach six-day youth waterfowl courses in Manitoba and Ontario this summer, as well as expand its current women’s hunts in the fall. These efforts both are part of Delta’s First Hunt.

“This will serve as a model of expansion on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes,” Petrie said, in reference to the youth waterfowl courses. “The sky is the limit, and this is just the start. I see expansion on the horizon.”

To help the new conservation effort in the Great Lakes, Delta Waterfowl recently hired Tim Cameron as its first waterfowl programs manager for the Great Lakes. Additional hires are likely, said Petrie.

According to a press release, Cameron will deliver youth hunter and trapper education courses, address invasive species issues, oversee expansion of Delta’s Hen House program and assist with chapter events in the Great Lakes Region.

“I feel lucky to have the opportunity to introduce more people to duck hunting, the region’s rich trapping heritage, and the role of both activities in wildlife management and duck production,” Cameron said. “We’re going to deliver for ducks and duck hunters.”

An avid sportsman who was raised in southern Ontario, Cameron is a lifelong advocate of conservation and hunter education. He spent 15 years as the provincial conservation education coordinator in New Brunswick, managing courses in firearms safety, hunting, trapping and nuisance removal, according to a press release.

“Tim’s background is rooted in science and education, making him a perfect fit for the position,” Petrie said. “We are pleased to find someone with this passion for hunting and the necessary skill set to share that passion with duck hunters in the Great Lakes.”

Overall, Petrie said, Delta Waterfowl is expanding its reach into a critically important region for waterfowl and waterfowl conservation.

“It’s an ambitious initiative, no doubt about it,” Petrie said. “But as an organization, we’re in good position to deliver it and reach our goals.”

For more information about Delta Waterfowl’s Great Lakes Initiative, go online to         www.deltawaterfowl.org.

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