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At its 87th annual convention in San Diego on May 29 to June 1, Ducks Unlimited announced that it delivered one million acres worth of conservation work and projects across North America from the beginning of 2023 to 2024. The achievement represents a first in the 87-year history of the organization.

DU CEO Adam Putnam called the milestone  “a testament to the hard work of our dedicated staff and volunteers, following years of exponential conservation growth. We don’t just advocate for wetlands—our mission moves dirt. Ducks see it. Communities see it. Partners see it. Each acre represents in-the-field success.”

Of the acres conserved in 2023-2024, a little less than a quarter represent restored and/or permanently protected acres, according to DU Communications Director Chris Sebastian. “Since its beginning, DU has permanently protected 18,000,000 acres,” he says. “In fiscal year 2024, we added 200,000 permanently protected acres to that total.” The projects that made up the remaining 800,000 acres included repairing older projects, or working with landowners on short-term practices like cover-crop plantings. Cover crops provide nesting habitat while also filtering and cleaning water that drains into wetlands, says Sebastian, citing them as the type of conservation partnerships with private landowners that are vitally important to DU’s mission. DU also partners with corporations and state and federal agencies in its work.

DU’s work helps ensure that waterfowlers can witness scenes like this one for years to come. Ducks Unlimited | Chris Jennings

Sebastian says the historic increase was made possible by donors increasing their support for DU, and by landowners demanding more conservation projects on their holdings. Landowners increasingly recognize that the benefits of wetland acres extend beyond waterfowl habitat to including cover for all types of wildlife, including pollinators, fish habitat, floodwater storage, and groundwater recharge. Wetlands also make excellent carbon sinks.

Sebastian also notes that despite the 1,000,000 acres worth of successes of the past year, much remains to be done. “North America continues to lose wetland acres,” he says, “but those losses would be much higher than they are without the work of DU and its donors and partners.”