Letter from Rep. Danou: Celebrating 75 years of Ducks UnlimitedLate last month, I attended Wisconsin’s 75th Anniversary Celebration of Ducks Unlimited after I served on the steering committee for the event.
By: Rep. Chris Danou , Pierce County Herald
Late last month, I attended Wisconsin’s 75th Anniversary Celebration of Ducks Unlimited after I served on the steering committee for the event. Other elected officials in attendance were Congresswoman and U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, along with my Assembly colleagues Nick Milroy from Superior, Louis Molepske from Stevens Point and Jeff Mursau from Crivitz. We were addressed by Governor Walker with a keynote speech by our own Congressman Ron Kind. It was a great event and I had the opportunity to chat with DU members from around the state. I also had the chance to proudly show off pictures from the opening weekend of duck hunting season on the Mississippi River, where my oldest son Orion successfully harvested his first duck while wearing my old duck hunting jacket.
Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hale reminded those in attendance that it is quite the accomplishment when an organization has the opportunity to celebrate 75 years of existence. In its 75 years, Ducks Unlimited has successfully conserved over 100,000 acres in Wisconsin and 12.4 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. The Wisconsin chapter is one of the largest in the nation with over 32,000 members raising more than $2 million for conservation annually.
I took away a deep appreciation of what the founders of Ducks Unlimited have given to us 75 years later. At that time, the country was in the depths of the Great Depression as well as suffering from the drought of the dust bowl years. Waterfowl populations, suffering from unregulated market hunting and habitat loss were at unprecedented lows. Did they throw up their hands and give up? No, instead they made a commitment to conservation and making the country better. The federal duck stamp was created because waterfowl hunters requested to pay extra to protect their sport. They were willing to pay for the privilege to hunt waterfowl because they recognized it was in their own long-term interest to do so. They also committed to paying an 11% excise tax on firearms (The Pittman Robertson Act) with that money being redistributed to the states for wildlife research and habitat protection.
It really bears thinking about what a group of committed Americans did 75 years ago. What did the sportsmen of the United States commit themselves to during the most difficult economic period our country has ever seen and during the worst drought in memory? They committed to paying forward, by taxing themselves to protect both the present and the future of their sports. They committed to protecting wildlife and wetland habitats that waterfowl and wildlife needed. They did this during a far more difficult time, both economically and environmentally than what we are living through today. My son and I both owe them our deepest gratitude. Without their foresight, commitment and sacrifice I am not sure my son and I would have been able to be out hunting on opening day. I am not sure we would have been able to see flocks of ducks, geese, cranes, pelicans and other birds trading back and forth across the steely gray September sky.
We are currently faced with a number of environmental and economic issues in our own difficult time. Will we have the foresight and commitment to make the necessary sacrifices and commitments for our children, or will we sacrifice the future for short-term gain? I look back and thank those who sacrificed in the past, who paid just a little bit more in fees so my son and I could sit together in a duck blind, watch the sun rise over the bluff lands and the waters of the Mississippi and enjoy a successful hunt. I hope my son will be able to spend a similar autumn morning with his children. I hope they can enjoy the beauty of our area and watch waterfowl cut across the sky because our generation has the foresight to continue protecting what was protected for us 75 years ago.