Part of the wonder of waterfowl hunting is the wild nature of the birds themselves: tough, wary birds that come from so far away, headed south to places unimagined. The flocks of mallards and gadwalls whirling over your decoys in Missouri or Tennessee began their lives on austere prairie potholes, lakes gouged out by glaciers in times when, although we were still duck hunters, we were wearing hides instead of Gore-Tex and toting atlatls instead of Berettas, Brownings and Mossbergs.

That pothole region of North and South Dakota is now called America’s duck factory, producing up to 50% of our waterfowl in the short, beautiful northern summers. And, thanks to the efforts and money of waterfowlers, and the commitment of prairie landowners, a tremendous effort is underway to protect those wetland resources using a new model of land conservation.

This effort underscores the irreplaceable nature of the money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and other state and federal conservation programs. Most of all, it is Exhibit A in the power that hunters have to protect what they love through collaboration, the tried-and-true dollars from federal and state waterfowl stamps and the hard work put in–year after year–by the folks at Ducks Unlimited. Please read on, and be inspired.