It’s hard to wrap my head around it, but I’ve been at Ducks Unlimited for almost a year now. The difficulty of the wrap around is less about the passage of time and more about the information I’m still trying to absorb. The amount of work that originates in the Western Regional Office is astounding. If you think there isn’t a whole lot of wetlands conservation going on on the West Coast states…you should give me a call sometime.
There is of course, more to learn than just what is happening on the ground. Working in fundraising means knowing the culture that surrounds you and understanding how to tell your story. And I’m always shocked at the complete misunderstanding of the DU story. Out in the interwebs and at dinner parties with friends what I hear the most is, “What’s the point of conserving ducks if you’re just going to shoot them later?”
I could go on for hours about the minimal impact of hunting, the value of natural resources, the importance of comprehending the value of food, the debilitating effects of nature deficit disorder and on an on but that isn’t really the question that gets asked. It’s “why save them if you’re going to shoot them?”
It’s a valid question, or at least would be if “Ducks Unlimited” shot ducks, but we don’t. Waterfowl hunters shoot ducks. Don’t get me wrong, we love waterfowl hunters at DU and it’s because these hunters also invest a tremendous amount of money in the conservation of waterfowl and wetlands. People who hunt waterfowl often support Ducks Unlimited. In fact, they are the backbone of our support. Still, Ducks Unlimited doesn’t shoot ducks.
So it would be more logical to direct the question to hunters and ask why they spend their money on conservation and supporting DU. Every time I have, I’ve been stunned at the passion and articulation of their answer. It is a conversation I recommend every curious person ask. In fact if you don’t know any gun hunters, go ask NorCal Cazadora. She could write rings around my best explanation of why I personally hunt.
The bottom line though, is that Ducks Unlimited is a conservation organization. The people in the office with me are biologists, engineers, GIS specialists and support staff. True, our restoration projects are open to hunters as often as possible, but they are also meant for bird watchers, bicyclists, kayakers etc. We prefer that wetlands be experienced and enjoyed. It’s the only way to convince people to put passion into doing the “right thing” and being conservation-minded. We believe that wetlands are of value to everyone and for multiple reasons. (Clean water, anyone?)
I hunt, but less than half the staff in this office do the same. For the most part, they aren’t here because they’re hunters. They are here because they have a passion for conservation. For some of us that desire to conserve was born from hunting and for others it came from camping, hiking or a childhood of collecting tadpoles and salmanders. We all believe in DU because DU does critcal work that has a tremendous impact on the quality of life for everyone and everything that requires water.
So dear friend from college, next time you have me over for dinner and we’re two glasses of wine into the night, please don’t ask me why I work somewhere that saves ducks so that we can kill them. Ask me about the $8.2 million worth of work we’re doing in the SF Bay Area and how we’re going to restore the salt evaporation ponds into tidal marsh. If your going for a heated discussion, ask me why I personally choose to hunt ducks with a falcon when my day job is to raise money to conserve them. Even if I can’t convince you that it’s okay that I hunt ducks we should be able to agree that you should support conservation. Please support Ducks Unlimited. DU doesn’t hunt ducks. I do.