When it comes to waterfowl conservation there are actually two major players on the block. The two are similar in some ways, completely different in others.
Although formerly created a year later, Delta Waterfowl traces its roots back to 1911. Geared toward waterfowl and wetland research since the beginning, Delta has expanded its mission to hunter issues in the last 15 years.
For years it was sustained by private donations, but beginning in 1998 the organization opened its fundraising doors, and now has 46,000 members and has gotten into the banquet business as well. Delta’s Tyler chapter will host its banquet and auction beginning at 5:30 p.m. August 23 at The Arbors, 2215 Roy Road.
Although they have had their disagreements, Delta and DU could be considered more friendly rivals both in what they do and in their efforts to attract support dollars.
“If you look at the challenge of managing waterfowl on a North American scale, it takes a lot of people doing a lot of things well,” said John Devney, senior director of U.S. policy for Delta.
With an annual budget of about $200 million, DU is the slick and glossy one. Delta has a more blue-collar feel. Its annual budget of $6.5 million is only a third greater than what DU spends on administrative costs.
“Historically Delta has been highly regarded for its research programs. That is how it built its reputation. Not among duck hunters, but professionals,” Devney said.
Delta’s work helped develop the annual waterfowl census method used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its Canadian counterparts to create season lengths and bag limits.
Researchers working with grants from Delta also were the first to recognize the importance of small wetlands in waterfowl production.
Delta continues its research programs throughout North America, some of which are in-house projects in which universities and students do the work and others are proposals sent to the organization. The primary focus is on so-called ground management that includes improved nest quality and predator management in nesting areas.
“A lot of what we know today about breeding duck ecology was learned at Delta. Some of it would bore you to tears,” Devney said of the research.
Since 2000, its focus has also been on the future of hunting caused by the revelation that North America could some day have strong waterfowl populations, but no one to hunt them.
Devney said the change came when Delta realized waterfowl hunter numbers in Canada over a 20-year period starting in the 1970s dipped 70 percent. Although better, U.S. numbers dropped a third.
“We have two elements and that is to secure the future of ducks and duck hunting,” Devney said.
Having grown from about 2,500 members in 1998, Delta isn’t trying to take over the waterfowl world. It would like to see its membership climb to about 10 percent of the duck and goose hunting population, or about 110,000 members. That would allow it to increase its budget four-fold to about $25 million.
Lane McDaniel, the local chapter chairman, said Delta has more than 300 members in the Tyler area. Last year’s banquet raised more than $15,000.
“One of the most compelling aspects of Delta versus DU is that 25 percent of the net proceeds raised at the banquet are given back to the local chapter to reinvest into the local community,” McDaniel said.
“With these funds, the Smith County Chapter has offered a $500 annual scholarship to a local high school senior as well as provided a free youth hunter education course annually to approximately 125 youth over the last five years.”
The group will offer another course Sept. 8-9 at Gander Mountain. The class is open to all ages, however, cost of participation for those 17 and older is $15. To register call 903-595-4567.
Tickets for the Tyler banquet are $50 per individual and $75 for a couple. Youth tickets are $15. For more information on the Tyler banquet contact McDaniel at 903-276-9883 or go online to www.deltawaterfowl.org.
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