If ducks could talk, what would they say? “Please protect our nesting, feeding and breeding grounds, we need those to survive.” Ducks are directly connected to the landscape and are indicators of what is happening in the environment. Part of our role as conservationists is to acknowledge and understand what wetland-dependent species are telling us, and to be their voice. Advocacy is the act and process of supporting a cause, and at Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), we advocate for wetlands and related habitats that support the incredible biodiversity that we are privileged to safeguard.
Sharing knowledge on the value of wetlands
Wetlands, grasslands and the boreal forest hold many benefits for biodiversity and for people. They protect us from flooding and drought and offset the impacts of climate change by sequestering carbon. Globally, it’s estimated that 40 per cent of all wildlife rely on wetlands and approximately one quarter of the world’s remaining wetlands are found in Canada. The challenge lies in getting these important stories out into the world. When people feel connected to these natural spaces, they begin to care for their future and are moved to take action to protect them. For 85 years, DUC has embraced that challenge. Through a variety of programs, we share these stories and the urgency of restoring, conserving and protecting these crucial landscapes.
DUC believes that the need for nature connects all people, and so does conservation. We strive to make conservation accessible to everyone, by facilitating activities like bird counts, bioblitzes, tracking bird migration and installing nest boxes. Every interaction a person has with nature brings them one step closer to better understanding it. This, in turn, motivates them to become an advocate themselves.
Hardworking farmers, ranchers and landowners play a crucial role in supporting the conservation and restoration of wetlands, grasslands, and the biodiversity they hold. As people closely connected to the land, they are among the first to see and share the positive impacts that healthy ecosystems provide. DUC provides expert knowledge and services to support their efforts by sharing best practices, adding a conservation voice to many agricultural councils and boards, and offering restoration services.
Involving our future leaders and decision-makers in advocacy efforts is key to ensuring a sustainable future. Online learning programs that bring conservation education into the classroom, DUC-partnered Wetland Centres of Excellence that facilitate hands-on conservation projects and a Youth Advisory Council are a few of the ways DUC is engaging and empowering young people to share their voices and ideas about conservation.
Indigenous governments and communities
Indigenous communities and governments are committed to the conservation and restoration of our environment and biodiversity, and their efforts are proven to be effective. Indigenous communities are stewards of vast tracts of land, much of which is undeveloped, allowing for significant opportunities in establishing protections and plans while the land is still untouched. Indigenous communities have established excellent resources for knowledge sharing, and DUC works to support braiding traditional knowledge with science and technology. We offer services like carbon accounting, wetland inventories, species surveys and more to complement Indigenous planning and initiatives.
“When we support Indigenous leadership and stewardship, we achieve the common goals of conservation and positive biodiversity outcomes,” says Kevin Smith, DUC’s national manager of boreal programs. Across Canada DUC works to support Indigenous-led conservation, collaborating on projects like wetland restoration and improving ecosystem services.
Decisions about wetlands, grasslands and forests are made by all levels of government. DUC works to have a seat at the table whenever waterfowl habitats are involved and have contributed to significant advancements. At the federal level, DUC is a key delivery partner in the Natural Heritage Conservation Program and the new Nature-Smart Climate Solutions Fund that are focused on bringing Canada closer to its goal of conserving 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030. Provincially, DUC recently played a key role in the establishment of codes of practice, which help conserve more than 54 million acres of Manitoba’s boreal wetlands. Successes like these underscore the need for effective, dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable advocates for nature to be present when policies are being crafted, and land-use planning is discussed. This is where DUC can continue to be an influential voice of change.
Industries that operate in and near wetlands, grasslands and forests have a growing interest in conserving these areas and the ecosystem services that they provide. DUC has developed relationships, training and best management practices to support these efforts. Developing strong relationships can lead to mutual knowledge sharing and commitments like the recently signed agreements with the Weyerhaeuser forestry company and the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, where DUC acts as an advocate for wetlands while listening to industry needs in our shared journey of conservation.
Understanding that flooding causes more than $1 billion in direct damage to households, property and infrastructure each year, 15 leading insurance companies have teamed up with DUC to create a pioneering new coalition called Nature Force. Focused on climate action, Nature Force invests in innovative nature-based solutions like wetland conservation and restoration to help keep communities safe from extreme weather events.
The role of science and technology in advocacy
To be an effective advocate, sound science is needed to ensure recommendations, policies and plans are as impactful as possible. DUC’s science and research activities measure the impacts of conserved or restored wetland habitats. This important knowledge has been used to advance innovation in public policy through the adoption of new programs that employ conservation action as a nature-based climate solution tool, such as the Government of Canada’s new Nature-Smart Climate Solutions Fund. In addition, our Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and remote sensing services offer current, accurate, and specific data on landscapes, inventories, species populations and biodiversity levels to advance our conservation efforts while also supporting our partners.
Voices for wetlands…and ducks
Everyone can be an advocate for conservation. And, if ducks could talk, we think they’d say: “thank you, keep going!”