This year marks the 80th anniversary for Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), and with active chapters in each of the tri-counites, Sou’west Nova is right in the mix.
Recognition is being given to volunteers, fundraising dinners and auctions are being held, and plans for new conservation and educational projects are on tap.
There was a capacity crowd for the Shelburne County DUC lobster dinner and auction held in Barrington this month, raising approximately $11,000 for the wetland conservation organization. A new initiative at the event was to raise enough money through a raffle to fund the first Project Webfoot for a class of Grade 4 students in Shelburne County. Project Webfoot is an educational program that combines in-class resources and teaching with wetland field trips, hands-on learning, and connects students to nature.
“We really want to grow education,” said Gren Jones, senior director for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and national DUC director. “Having the raffle was key to getting our foot in the door down your way.”
The Shelburne County DUC committee was revived several years ago after a hiatus of about 20 years and is a mix of local sportsmen, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who spearheaded and supported a local Ducks Unlimited committee in the 1980s and 1990s along with the next generation.
“The committee, they’re so much fun to work with. If every committee worked the way they did we’d be laughing. They are so enthusiastic,” said Jones, noting tickets for the dinner sold out in two weeks. “They were getting calls for tickets right up to the night before. They could have sold another 100 tickets.”
VOLUNTEERS AND SUPPORT
Jones said when DU runs a dinner or conducts projects, so much depends on volunteers and community support and donations.
“We are a grassroots organization,” he said. “We’re the largest conservation organization doing wetlands in Canada. Wetlands, that’s what our mission is, to protect them, to restore them and observe them. It’s important people realize how much we value volunteers.”
DUC has proclaimed this year as the year of the volunteer, said Jones, noting Leo LeBlanc of Yarmouth has been named volunteer of the year by DUC for Nova Scotia. He was honoured at an awards banquet in Digby on Feb. 6, along with some 40 other DUC volunteers from the tri-counties and Annapolis Valley. Jones said DUC holds volunteer recognition banquets all over the province.
“We try to recognize our volunteers and let them know how important they are.”
Jones said DUC doesn’t only get volunteers from the community. They have staff such as Katie Scott, who is not only the DUC education specialist for the Maritimes, but along with husband Marcel, is one of the driving forces behind the Shelburne County DU committee and a dedicated volunteer to the organization.
“Like so many other employees, whether they are in conservation or the office, they volunteer,” said Jones. “That’s one of the great things about DUC staff. They’re dedicated to DUC not only for the paycheque but as volunteers. As national director, I can tell you the rest of Canada looks to Atlantic Canada with regards to fundraising and science and education. We’re driving the education program. No other province in Canada has been able to do what we are doing (in Atlantic Canada) with education.”
The number one province in Canada when it comes to education is New Brunswick, where there are three DUC wetland centres of excellence, which are designated schools where all students have access to programs like Project Webfoot, where the older students mentor the younger students and they all act as marsh stewards, said Jones. Across Canada there are about 25 schools involved in wetland centres of excellence.
“In Nova Scotia we are the exception to the rule,” said Jones. “We have an elementary school here in the valley called Summerset Elementary near Berwick. It’s a little country school with students from K to 5. We have an outdoor classroom for them, a marsh with a dipping platform and dock. The kids love it.”
While there are various ongoing DUC conservation projects in the tri-counties, on the regional level the eider duck population and black duck habitation are in DU’s sights, said Jones.
“A lot of people are concerned with what’s going on with the eiders. Eiders have disappeared from some Atlantic coastal hunting areas,” said Jones, adding a research project is being done in co-operation with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources to look at the eider population, among other things.
“Another thing DU is concerned about especially with climate change is the habitat for the black ducks,” said Jones. “The population is in pretty good health, but there’s a lot in interest in salt marsh restoration.”
To this end, DU has an agreement with the Nova Scotia government.
“Land that is converted to Crown land because it has no owner and has significant wetland habitat may be offered to DU to conserve,” explained Katie Scott, which is the case for a few properties in Shelburne County. “Also, because these properties don’t have owners DUC looks for volunteers to sign up as a ‘marsh monitor,’ where they visit the wetland sites and simply note the condition and observations of the wetland. This helps DUC ensure the wetlands are kept in good condition.”
Jones said there are always opportunities for people if they want to volunteer with DUC, from serving on a committee to monitoring a wetland. Cubs and Scouts are also welcome to get involved with DUC by adopting a wetland or building nesting boxes, which earns them badges, said Jones.
Anyone wanting to learn more or get involved with DUC can contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 902-679-6691. Next month (March 24), the Sou’West Nova DUC committee will be hosting their annual dinner and auction at the Grand Hotel in Yarmouth.