Ken Jansa, chairman of the Missouri/Milk River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, welcomed more than 100 people to the Montana DU annual state convention last weekend at the Cottonwood Inn. Although the local chapter has been active for 28 years, this is the first time its has hosted the state convention.
On Friday and Saturday, speakers from across the United States and from Canada celebrated the group’s successes over the past year and described the new conservation and fundraising programs coming up in the future.
Montana DU president Nora Taylor of Laurel boasted proudly that Montana is the third-highest producer of ducks in the country, behind North Dakota and South Dakota. The wetlands and potholes conserved for ducks also provide habitat for many other species of prairie animals and plants.
Among those recognized during the convention were two recipients of the Conservation Partner of the Year Award. The public sector winner was Randy Gazda of Great Falls, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who brought $15.7 million in wetlands grants to Montana, leveraging $55 million to affect 201,000 acres of land.
The private sector recipient was Kent Wasson of Loring, a grazing lessee on one of DU’s revolving lands acquisitions.
Jim West, DU’s chief fundraising officer from Memphis, Tenn., described the organization’s recent history as three extremely successful years in a row. Last year was DU’s 75th anniversary, marked by many diamond events, at which chapters aimed to raise $75,000. The folks at national guessed that 45 cities could attain this goal, but 102 cities did it, including three in Montana – one was Glasgow. The others were Bozeman and Billings.
Among the hardworking local members, Sam Espeland was singled out for mention as a 57-year member of DU and a charter organizer of the Missouri/Milk River Chapter.