By Ted Waddell
ELDRED June 22, 2001 - The Sullivan County Chapter of Ducks Unlimited hosted their 2001 annual banquet on Saturday evening at the Eldred Preserve. The fundraiser celebrated the 64th Anniversary of DU which originated in Lew Beach.
DU is a non-profit organization dedicated to waterfowl and wetlands conservation. Funds generated in the United States are used to enhance, acquire and restore habitat in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Since DUs inception in 1937, the organization has conserved about 5.3 million acres of habitat throughout North America. Some 600 wildlife species, including several on the endangered list, look to these areas for their survival. With the loss of wetlands continuing at a rate of more than 400,000 acres per year, the DU mission is more critical than ever before in history.
The idea for Ducks Unlimited was spurred by the winds that created the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Untold acres of wetland habitat vanished, taking with them the promise of generations of waterfowl. In 1937, a small group of conservationists who realized that the majority of North Americas waterfowl breed in the Canadian prairies, organized to raise money in the U.S. for waterfowl conservation in Canada.
The Sullivan County Chapter of DU was reborn five years ago due to the efforts of co-chairs Debra Steingart and Lori Schmitz.
You know all the moneys going to a good cause, said Schmitz taking a break from the fast-paced raffle and auction.
Richard B. Smith, DUs regional director for southeast NY, said that 87 cents of every dollar raised is used for on-the-ground efforts.
According to Smith, it costs about $250 to restore an acre to wetlands.
The volunteers are the most important part of this organization, he added.
According to Tom Humberstone, DUs New York chairman, wetlands are the number one purification system.
Seventy per-cent of DU members are not waterfowl hunters, he said. They belong because of their belief in the resource.
During the fund-raising auction, bidders used numbered silhouettes of duck heads to signal their interest in acquiring one of the numerous works of wildlife art and other outdoor related items.
NYS Police Trooper Ben Johnson and his wife Kathleen of Narrowsburg were on hand to lend support to the Ducks Unlimited mission. Johnson has been a member of DU for eight years.
The money you put into this goes back into the habitat, said Johnson. You can see the results of what youre doing, and youre helping yourself.
During the annual dinner, the Johnsons signed up as DU volunteers, and won a special raffle held for new DU volunteer recruits.
While Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda has been a member of Ducks Unlimited on and off for about 15 years, his wife Kathy LaBuda, Sullivan County District 2 legislator, joined the conservation organization Saturday night.
I do not hunts ducks, said Frank LaBuda. I joined for the sole purpose of supporting the conservation of the wetlands and waterfowl.
I like to be supportive of the people in the river district, said the local legislator.
Carl Lindsley, a senior wildlife technician with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), noted that his agency gets assistance from Ducks Unlimited with work on the states marsh habitats, such as the Bashakill and numerous waterfowl projects.
For information about Ducks Unlimited, call 1-800-45-DUCKS or visit DUs websites at www.ducks.org and/or www.ducommunity.org