Camouflaged by cattails and weeds, two black ducks recently built a feather-lined nest on the muddy edge of Bass Pond, a wetland 65 km southwest of Sudbury, Ont. And in other locations on the 210acre marsh, ducks of five different species have also settled in. But until this spring the reedy wetland that attracted the migrating waterfowl did not exist. Instead, thesite was covered by grassland. But last July members of Ducks Unlimited Canada, a Winnipeg-based national organization of more than 70,000 duck hunters and conservationists, finished a $60,000 dam —and created the pond. Said John Bain, Ontario manager of the nonprofit organization, which is celebrating its 50th year of wetland conservation: “As with all of our projects, we just put on our hip waders and got to work.”
The Bass Pond project, among others, may take on additional significance because, according to biologists affiliated with the organization, a severe drought on the Canadian Prairies is currently threatening the survival of about 10 million ducks—more than half of Canada’s duck population. The situation echoes the circumstances that led to the founding of the conservationist group: in the late 1930s a protracted drought devastated the Prairie wetlands and jeopardized the existence of 70 per cent of North America’s 35 duck species. As a result, alarmed U.S. sportsmen established Ducks Unlimited Inc. in 1937 and helped organize the Canadian chapter the following year. During the past five decades its members have raised $330 million to create and preserve more than 3,500 Canadian marshes, ponds and bogs.
Other conservationists point out that the ultimate aim of Ducks Unlimited is to ensure the preservation of ducks for hunting. “That can be seen as the rationale behind what they do,” acknowledged Paul Griss, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Nature Federation. But, Griss added, “their commitment to restoring wetlands is unquestionable.” For the sportsmen’s part, declared Bain, “our philosophy is that those who benefit from a resource are the ones who should be saving it.”
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