Ep. 514 – Innovative Growth in Wetlands and Waterfowl Conservation

00:00 Mike Brasher Hey everybody, welcome back. I'm your host, Mike Brasher. We have an exciting episode today. We're going to be talking about some of the new growth that's happening within Ducks Unlimited. We talk often about waterfowl habitats and how they continue to face threats and conversion throughout North America. And our message as Ducks Unlimited has always been that we need to grow our ability to kind of counteract some of those threats to waterfowl habitats. And really the way we do that is by attracting additional resources in terms of supporters, in terms of financial resources. And one of the spaces in which we've been able to really gain some traction lately is in a broad umbrella of something we refer to as ecosystem services. All of the interest in benefits that wetlands and waterfowl habitat conservation provides beyond just habitat for the ducks and geese and swans that use them. So under this broad ecosystem services umbrella, we have a lot of other things that we will talk about. Joining me today in studio are two of our key people within the Ducks Unlimited organization that are helping us sort of forge that path. And we wanted to bring to you a bit of a better understanding of what all of that means as you start hearing about this as Ducks Unlimited members and Ducks Unlimited supporters. We want you to have a better understanding of what some of these terms mean. We want you to be able to visualize some of this exciting work and recognize its importance to waterfowl and the things that we all care about and the things beyond waterfowl that we care about as well. Those two people are, I'll tell you what, I'm going to let them introduce themselves. So I'm going to go right here. Sarah,

01:35 Sara Burns introduce yourself. Hi, y'all. I'm Sarah Burns. I'm a water program specialist for the Great Lakes Atlantic region of Ducks Unlimited. I've been with DU almost two years, almost my anniversary,

01:47 Mike Brasher and I work out of my home in southwestern Michigan. Water program specialist. You're probably the first water program specialist we've ever hired within Ducks Unlimited, right? Yeah, that's

01:57 Sara Burns right. That's quite a distinction. It is. When I started, they onboarded me with read the strategic plan and the national business plan. And as I was reading it, I was like, oh my God, that's my job.

02:09 Mike Sertle They're talking about that's a big deal for the organization. It's exciting. Yeah. Super cool. And then right here, Mike Sertle, I'm our manager of conservation programs for the Big Rivers Initiative States, which are these states at Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky. And I help coordinate our on the ground habitat program in those states focused on floodplain habitat for migration and wintering and in the northern reaches breeding habitat for those waterfowl, the Great Lakes. And you have a calm, comforting radio voice, man. Thank you. I appreciate that. A lot of coffee in the morning helps with that. A lot of coffee. Yeah. I'm based off our Big Rivers field office, which is in O'Fallon, Illinois, which is on the Illinois side of the river across from St. Louis, myself, other biologists, other engineers. And that's where we kind of oversee the program deliveries out of there. I've been with you just over 17 years now.

03:04 Mike Brasher 17 years. Just over 17 years. Let me think about that. So I am almost at 18 years. So you would have started in 2006? May of 2007. Okay. Math isn't math-ing right now. Oh, I did the math wrong.

03:18 Mike Sertle 16 years. May of 2007. Sorry. Didn't know this was going to be a math quiz. No, no. I originally started up in our Great Lakes office in Michigan as our Western Michigan, Indiana biologist. And then over the course of my career was our Illinois biologist and our manager of conservation programs

03:36 Mike Brasher now for a large portion of the Upper Miss Basin. I didn't really plan it like this, but I think having the two of you as part of this is sort of a, it's a bit of a microcosm of how DU and the staff that we hire and the importance of those staff has sort of evolved over the years. You go back in our history and pretty much all we hired were biologists, waterfowl biologists of some type or wetland ecologists a little bit. But Mike, you're kind of from that traditional mold, but now you find yourself working in a space where you don't think as much about waterfowl biology as you did when you started. That doesn't mean that you've forgotten your waterfowl biology or your passion or your concern for the waterfowl resource, but you have a, now where we are in the organization is we are deliberately and vocally, we're deliberately thinking and speaking about all of these other benefits that our wetlands conservation provides. And then Sarah, you are water program specialist and that is a very direct recognition of the value of wetlands conservation for water benefits. Talk about that just generally water benefits. What are we talking about? All the different aspects of water that we get from our wetlands conservation efforts.

04:56 Sara Burns Yeah, that's a great question. The way that I kind of think about it at a broad level is, especially where we are in the Midwest, states have lost 90, 95, maybe close to 99% of the wetlands that were on the landscape. And wetlands are wet, so they hold water for us. When we take that away, the water just moves really quickly through whatever system it's in. So you see flashier floods, you see more droughts, and you see water that's loaded with pollutants from whatever it's been washing over. And so just by bringing those wetlands back, we're keeping water up in the watersheds, maybe where it would have stayed longer before. And the value that comes out of that is clean drinking water. It's reduced flood, it's increased biodiversity. In some instances, it's a cooling service, kind of like air conditioners in the landscape. They mitigate the length of heat waves. They are kind of powerhouses in our systems. And so that's what I talk about and try to work on and pick a service and a biologist who wants to deliver it and partners who are interested in it and just

06:15 Mike Brasher try to accelerate the good work that DU has been doing for 85 years. And so Mike, you've been with DU, what did we decide, 16 years? 16 years, right? 16 years. And you have this idea that wetlands provide all of those benefits is not new, right? I mean, we've talked about it. We were discussing before we started recording. If you go back, let me long enough, I remember whenever I was an undergraduate, we spoke most often about the benefits of wetlands conservation that's primarily directed to waterfowl provides to shorebirds. Integrated wetland management was sort of a term back in the day. And that focused on how wetland creation or enhancement or management for waterfowl also benefits shorebirds, also benefits waterbirds, and a lot of other wetland dependent critters. And so we in the entire wetland conservation community have been recognizing those benefits for decades. Things are changing now, broader society, and people are valuing all of these ecosystem services, clean water, flood storage capacity, carbon sequestration, climate mitigation kind of measures, and a whole host of other things that you guys are way better to talk about than I am. And here is our opportunity as an organization to kind of stand up and say, hey, look at us over here. We've been doing this for decades. These things matter to you. Come work with us. Is that

07:47 Mike Sertle it in a nutshell, Mike? Yeah, very much so. The projects that Ducks Unlimited has done, as you said, for decades, the projects, especially in my landscape, in the upper Miss landscape, in the flood plains of the Mississippi, in the Illinois, the Missouri, the Ohio, looking at what we're seeing happening on the landscape, we were seeing changes happen with river hydrology. Years back now, five, six years ago, before DU really looked at expanding, it was Sarah and our other staff and all these additional benefits and promoting it more so than not, we were hearing from our state partners, our federal partners, our waterfall and wetland management area staff that they couldn't keep, they would grow duck food all summer and we'd catch a late flood in their infrastructure. They couldn't get the water out fast enough. Or in Southland Lake 2019, because the flood was so high for so long, it literally just eroded away infrastructure. And we were seeing a loss of productivity in the wetlands. And as one would expect, we're seeing waterfall use decline, we're seeing waterfall hunter success decline. So a lot of our state partners came to us saying, hey, we're having these problems. Our old infrastructure from 20 years ago, it isn't addressing our needs. So we've been approaching it within our big rivers landscape for a number of years now that, okay, then we're going to give you what you need. And it marries very nicely with what DU and Sarah and myself and others are working on in this natural infrastructure, sustainability and landscape. And that's things such as you have a 1000 acre backwater lake connected directly to the river, a 36 inch pipe is not going to handle what we expect to see in flooding regimes in the coming years. You still need that. You're a very important waterfall management area. So we're going to come in, our engineers are going to work with you. We're going to put in three, four foot concrete boxes and we're going to add a hundred foot emergency spill relief spillway. So through that, for the purpose initially of bringing our waterfall areas back, we started doing this work. And now in the last number of couple of years here with Sarah coming on and other staff that we have, we're really starting to further promote and look at how we can capitalize on opportunities in that realm of clean water and flood attenuation to help further our mission goals of waterfall and wetland habitat. So it's really a great lockstep and I'm very happy. As you said, I'm a trained duck biologist, old river rat duck hunter. And I'm excited that we're promoting to a wider

10:28 Mike Brasher audience that our wetlands do so much more in addition to our fall wetland habitat. I think that was a great introduction to this overall topic and sustainability, nature-based solutions, ecosystem services. Those are terms that our members, that our listeners are going to start hearing and we're wanting to bring some additional description to this, some examples to this. We're going to get to do some examples in a minute, but I want to do a little bit of a step back and have each of you, a lot of times we'll have each of you introduce yourselves. Most of the times we'll do this right at the top, but we're going to kind of mix it up. We're going to put it in right here. So Sarah, how did you, tell us about your upbringing? Where'd you come from? How'd you get, what sparked your interest in this field? We were talking earlier about it was fishing in biomeda for Dr. Ellen Herbert that sparked her interest in wetlands ecology.

11:22 Sara Burns Sarah, what was it for you? That's a great question. I always got in trouble as a kid for getting wet and muddy. It's just been a draw that I've had my whole life. I don't, I can't think of one particular moment, but I studied general ecology for my undergrad because I thought of all the things I could do that that could be helpful to the world. And then I did environmental restoration for a while. I meandered. I did, I was on a field crew building trails. I studied the impacts of river restoration on aquatic insects, which means I caught and killed 10,000 wild bugs. I was a utility forester outside the city of Chicago. I waited tables. And then I ended up at the nature conservancy in Massachusetts. And the, what I love about this work is, and this is actually one of the things I think that DU also offers beyond the ecosystem service, the physical services is the, the, the cultural services. We have a model in America of driving tax money to the systems that we care about for the users who care about them. And it's created this culture of deep connection to the natural world that I think a lot of people are missing. And I think that's another thing that like, I hope we can broaden that tent also, cause that's what, I think that's what brings me back to this work over and over again is people need to be connected to nature and understand what it does for us. Were you aware of familiar or unfamiliar with ducks unlimited before you were hired? I am friends with Dr. Alan Herbert. We went to school together over the years and we, I got my job at the nature conservancy about the time she got her job here. And so we'd compare mission statements and things like that. But my uncles and brothers

13:17 Mike Brasher are turkey hunters and deer hunters. My mind is going a certain place right now. And, but I'll see if I avoid it, but it's okay. The fact that you're now here, you know, I'll stop there.

13:29 Sara Burns Yeah. Don't get me in trouble. Yeah. My uncles and brothers are deer hunters and turkey hunters. And one of my first like, you know, air quotes, like jobs as a kid was my friend's dad bred and trained hunting dogs. So we'd get to take the puppies out and teach them how to swim and vacuum around them and teach them, you know, what snow was, but that I was not as directly aware

13:54 Mike Brasher of ducks unlimited. What kind of hunting dogs? Labs. For waterfowl hunting? Yep. Oh, yeah. So you did, but did you grow up hunting waterfowl hunting or anything? You're just around the dogs?

14:06 Sara Burns Just around the dogs. Yeah. I'd fish with my dad every so often. Oh, okay. Yeah. But that's about

14:10 Mike Brasher it. Very cool. And so you've been here almost two years now. What has been your impression, kind of favorite story? Any sort of, did you come to view ducks unlimited as, I don't know, I guess I'm just asking like your overall impression now that you've been here for a couple

14:27 Sara Burns of years or any sort of favorite story you'd like to tell about it? Yeah. I refer to my colleagues like Mike as wetland wizards. When I'm trying to do a shorthand for people about what I do, the depth and breadth of understanding of the landscape and the systems and the partners is just kind of astonishing. And so to be in a place where we're taking our wetland wizards and turbo charging them to like reach these other audiences and provide these other services is just the scale of implementation that you already does and then has the capacity to ramp up to is just

15:05 Mike Sertle awesome. Turbo charged wetland wizards. I love it. Maybe Folger's charged. Yeah, there you go. Yeah. Mike, so what about you? Your upbringing, your background, how you came to DU? Sure, sure. I grew up on the Mississippi River. River rat. River rat. Going back generations on pool 12, the same pool. I grew up running trout lines and pan fishing and ice fishing and my dad and grandpa, you know, ran trap lines back in the day. And yeah, so for me, it's always been a very personal connection to the Mississippi, especially, but to flood plains and the wetland ecosystems, you know, growing up as a kid in the river bottoms, just the diversity of you see a birds and plants and the things you learn just about nature. Right. And you also learn that as Sarah said, water is a powerful, powerful, powerful thing. And it's going so many ways, so many ways. And eventually it's going to do what it wants to do, which segues well into what we've been talking about this morning. But for me, it's always been very personal, a personal connection to it. I was, you know, a biology geek as a kid. Like I always grew up somehow wanting to do, see more habitat on the ground. Right. I grew up in a Midwestern state. So as Sarah said, we don't have a lot of the wetlands that we used to. So yeah, it was weird since a kid. I always, oh, am I not weird? Maybe it's premonition that since a kid, this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to see oak trees planted back. I want to see water back in swales. And I've always just loved the diversity of it, you know, and as I got older and college and my career went on, you know, I got into waterfall and college and did masters, my master's work on waterfowl. And as I, you know, moved on in my professional career, I worked on Threatened Endangered Species work out of Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, out of Jamestown, out of their USGS. You know, we worked on the Missouri River doing turn and plover endangered species work. And we'd work on the Platte River during the spring migration, which is just, if none of your listeners have seen the spring migration in Nebraska, between Grand Island and Lexington, it's something to behold. I have not seen it. It's, it's especially the RWB is a rainwater basin is holding water.

17:29 Mike Brasher We should be recording this there. Not this time of year, but in the spring, right?

17:33 Mike Sertle Yeah, not now. In the spring, the spring migration through there is pretty, pretty great something to see. And then my career brought me back to Ducks Unlimited. I saw the opportunity to put my professional waterfall knowledge and training to use to come back. Not that I didn't love North Dakota. I still absolutely love North Dakota and South Dakota, but come back to the upper Midwest and look at how can we get some habitat back on that landscape? Yeah. And that's, that's what brought me, brought me to where I am in my career today. It started growing up on the Mississippi as a little kid, fishing for bluegills around the stumps and chasing squirrels and falling off wild grapevines into the water and you know, all the good stuff.

18:18 Mike Brasher And as a biologist, as a biologist for DU, what are the primary things that you did when you were that regional biologist position? I, and I'm asked that question to give people

18:30 Mike Sertle a sense of what, what we do. Yeah. As a regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited within the organization, our primary role is that we're the ones that help to identify, plan, and then put that habitat on the ground. So a, a, for example is as I was talking earlier about our infrastructure, we will have a state fish and wildlife area because you know, we've had long-term partnerships. So we know folks and right, they know us and we're kind of a known entity for a lot of our partners when it comes to things like wetland engineering or land protection, even some instances. So the partner will reach out to the DU bio and say, Hey, we have this wetland unit, you know, the old structure is rusted or as I was talking earlier, the last flood got us, it's done this to us every couple of years. We need something different that biologists. And then one of our engineers, you know, a lot of folks don't realize that we have professional civil engineers on staff. A lot of them. And I always caveat, I won't say we're the only nonprofit, but we're one of the only ones that I'm aware of that has, has P E these engineers. And it really strengthens our conservation program. So the biologists and the engineers, they'll go out to that site and they'll meet with the DNR staff and the DNR managers that are the DNR engineers. And they'll look at the site and they'll say, well, we see what you have. What is your management goal? And they'll say, you know, we want X amount of water. We need this food or, you know, we have these blinds or however it is. Then we sit down with them and our engineers will put together a conceptual design of, okay, based on what we're seeing from the river hydrographs, based on what we're seeing from aerial interpretation of topography, based on sites, taking some measurements, we'll put together a conceptual design. And this comes around to where I was talking earlier, we'll take, you know, you had a 36 inch pipe, we're going to use something bigger. We take that. If DU and the partners are in agreement to what that looks like, that's when really the DU, as a lot of folks are familiar with us, that's really when the DU fundraising machine kicks in. And that's where when we talk about our leveraging of all those dollars that our events-based folks raise and our major donors and supporters, that's where we take those funds and we leverage that against things that again, our listeners often hear about from Ducks Unlimited, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, NACA, other things, stretch those dollars, secure those funds. And then we work with oftentimes doing the contracting, the bidding, helping physically get a contractor onsite to build and construct that wetland. Then when we're done, we call it turnkey. We kind of hand the keys back over to the state and say, hey, there you go. Based on our engineering, this structure should be able to handle what we're seeing now for water. If not, we got you an emergency spillway to let water in and out. Yeah, it's really, it's a team effort, but when you're fortunate like myself and a lot of other DU managers to have great team members, both on the biologists and engineering side, yeah, it's a really great thing to see in action. And now you're over, what did you say, director or manager of conservation programs? What's your title now? Manager right now, but I mean, DU is expanding fast. We got lots of things going on. Manager of conservation programs in

21:55 Mike Brasher that big rivers initiative area. And so you now have some regional biologists that are working underneath you that are doing that work. And so you're responsible for kind of implementing some of the growth vision that we have now in this space and in that particular area, right? Yes. And so then Sarah, talk about how you interface with and work in tandem with the, the, the, as we often call them, our bio engineering team, our team of biologists

22:22 Sara Burns and engineers. What is it that you now bring to that conversation? That is a great question. So the way that I think about it now is Mike mentioned NACA and NACA's big grants are $3 million and it's a one-to-one match, right? At least two to one normally to be competitive. Which means that for $3 million, we have to bring $3 million. If, if the bio engineering teams are working on a NACA grant, I do almost nothing. Actually, I do literally nothing. I don't get involved on that project. It doesn't mean you're sitting around. Oh yeah, exactly. Thank you. But, you know, as we're looking, for example, on the Mississippi river at pots of money to do the kind of work that Mike wants to do and is doing with funding caps of 50 million, we have to think about our approach to designing the application a little bit differently. We have to think about how we're proving the benefits of our work. We have to think, Oh, for FEMA. Is that what you're talking about? Yeah, you can talk. I just want to make sure you're talking as, as the 50 million cap is for individual FEMA grants. Is that correct? I actually, that's kind of an example. I was thinking of FEMA, but I don't know that I'm not positive. That's the cap. I think it is, but it's around $50 million and they have $500 million every year that they're trying to grant out. And so, you know, just as an example, we're working on a FEMA grant right now and myself and the engineer who are working on the project have just been going back and forth with FEMA because we don't really speak the same language and figure out what they mean, what requirements apply, what do we have to prove? How are we working with the community? So I think that the way to say what I do is, is just trying to operationalize actually getting in front of new audiences and

24:22 Mike Brasher trying to get those funds to get the projects on the ground. Do you assist with any of the discussions about the design as it may relate to water quality benefits, flood, floodwater retention benefits? You know, we traditionally relied only on our quote waterfowl biologist for that, but now as we talk about how we're, we're trying to expand and grow our supporter base and folks that were, might be interested in helping us fund these projects, we have to bring that scientific

24:48 Sara Burns expertise in these other fields to that engineering and design phase, right? You get involved in that? Yes, I do. And it depends to what level and in different locations. So we're also working in Michigan with the state trying to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie basin and removing phosphorus, which is the nutrient that we really want to keep out of Western Lake Erie, because that is the nutrient that really drives a type of algae to thrive. And that green algae, the blue green algae, yet harmful algal blooms, they call it or say on a bacteria is generally neat. The phosphorus is what's driving that problem. And in that lake, in most freshwater systems, it is.

25:34 Mike Brasher Okay. Cause a lot of times we hear about nitrogen as the nutrient of concern for, for hypoxia or something of that nature, right? But when we're talking about blue green algae, it's more phosphorus. Is that? Yeah. The every colleges will tell you that it's not this simple, but in freshwater phosphorus is the limiting nutrient is what they call it. Meaning when it gets introduced in large quantities, it releases and enables this massive growth of something in this case,

26:00 Sara Burns the algae. Yeah. So it exactly. And so however much phosphorus there is, that's how it's the only way to control it. It'll just keep proliferating because it makes nitrogen itself. Okay. In salt water systems, nitrogen is the limiting nutrient. The only time people tend to care about nitrogen in freshwater systems is too much nitrogen in your drinking water is a human health and safety hazard. And that is regulated by the EPA. So maybe this is two in the weeds, but Iowa cares. Iowa is working on nitrogen in a geography where you, I expected them to be working on phosphorus and it's because of the drinking water, removing nitrate. It's night. The type of nitrogen you care about is nitrates. Removing that from drinking water with a water treatment plant is phenomenally

26:53 Mike Brasher expensive. And this is a perfect example of why I'm bringing on people like yourself, like Ellen, like Sarah Phelps, Lauren Olloman and others. I'll better stop there. I'm going to bring in somebody, but why bringing on as DU staff, new DU staff, people with your expertise is so important. If we are to get serious about our work in these other spaces, attracting the folks that are interested in improving water quality for however many different reasons there are and all the other

27:22 Sara Burns things. So great example of what you bring to these conversations. Yeah. And so when we're trying to get phosphorus out with a wetland in a freshwater system, the sciences is a little unclear still. And so I work with Dr. Ellen Herbert at the national level, the local bioengineering teams and the regulatory agencies who are trying to meet their water quality goals to say, if this is our site, how can we be sure that we're going to catch and hold phosphorus and not actually make the problem worse? And we can do it, but it's the leading edge of what we know about these systems

28:00 Mike Brasher is what we're trying to get on the ground. And just because we're talking about water quality, floodwater retention doesn't mean that we're turning our back or ignoring the benefits to waterfowl, right? That is still key in the way we view our conservation programs, our conservation projects. And this is a great segue to what we're going to discuss after the break. We want to provide a few examples of how we've been able to sort of grow partnerships around wetland conservation from groups that are interested in some of these other benefits, but that when we deliver those projects, we do so in a way that will still benefit waterfowl. Or if we're uncertain about whether they're benefiting waterfowl, we're investing in science to answer that question, right? So stay with us folks. We're going to take a quick break here and we will be right back with more. Welcome back everyone. I'm here with Sarah Burns and Mike Sertle and we're talking about sustainability, nature-based solutions, growth in the Ducks Unlimited Organization around these benefits beyond waterfowl and wanting to kind of help you help educate all of you and others on on this really exciting time and exciting opportunity to increase the pace at which we're making a positive impact on wetlands and other waterfowl habitats. We're going to talk about some of the examples, kind of put some maybe more tangible thoughts and images in people's mind and we're going to go to the places that y'all are familiar with. I think what we'll do, we've touched on this a little bit, but might be useful to do it a bit more directly. Sustainability,

29:54 Mike Sertle nature-based solutions, a quick definition of those who wants to take that. Do you want to do sustainability and I can do nature-based solutions? Sounds good. Okay, who goes first now?

30:03 Sara Burns One decision made. I'm going with sustainability. Yeah, the umbrella. There we go. So when we talk about sustainability at Ducks Unlimited, we're talking about the ecosystem services that are provided by wetlands that isn't waterfowl production because waterfowl production is our primary mission. So the team that you alluded to earlier tends to focus on water quality in my geography, flood resilience also. On the southern coast, they're looking at coastal resilience. So thinking about mitigating waves and erosion and damage to coastal systems. In the Great Plains region, the sustainability program does a lot with aquifer recharge, trying to have enough drinking water. So it's kind of a shorthand. Sustainability is kind of a shorthand for any of those services. And the people that work delivering all those different services, we get together every so often and like, oh, who are you talking to? How's it going? That kind of thing. Yeah. Did I miss anybody in that team since you referred to it? Is Billy part of that team? Billy. So the ecosystem service, I think we're called the topical team right now, includes a mix of staff like myself that were hired to do an ecosystem service role. Brought that expertise. Yep. And I think you did get everyone. Lauren Alman focuses a lot on carbon. Sarah Phelps works in the southern region.

31:30 Mike Brasher Ellen Herbert is kind of our senior scientist. And then actually there's Kathleen Sampsel. Oh, yes. I knew it felt like we were forgetting someone there. And then Billy, since I mentioned- Oh yeah. And we have a new person, like a month in Jared Hansen. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, he doesn't feel like he's new. He's new to Ducks Unlimited. He's actually been on the Ducks Unlimited podcast before talking about Black Billion Whistling Ducks. Yeah, cool. Yeah. He came to us from Christian Brothers University here in Memphis. And so yeah, Jared is now working with us on the ecosystem services area. And so Billy, since I mentioned his name, I don't know, I'm trying to look up his title there. He works on carbon. He's a resource economist and works on some of our carbon issues out west. And so we'll have been trying to get Billy on in the past and we just missed one another whenever he's been here, but we'll take care of that here in the future. So you're on notice, Billy, I guess. All right. And so then we're done with sustainability,

32:29 Mike Sertle our definition there. Yeah. Okay. All right. Take it, Mike. Natural infrastructure really is looking at how do we work with the landscape that we're given. So to kind of provide a little bit background information for listeners, for folks, a lot of what you would see in the river floodplains, for example, is what we term great infrastructure. That was the traditional big solid levees along the river, large, huge detention basins, things of that nature. On the other end of the spectrum, you have green infrastructure, which can be as simple as planting trees for carbon sequestration, for water quality. And in the middle, you have kind of a hybrid. And that's really where ducks element lands is in that hybrid to green side of the green side of the infrastructure, not so much into the gray infrastructure. So as we look at natural infrastructure, it's that it's working with the landscape. So as we look at a wetland unit, we look at what does the topography tell us, it's going to tell us where that water wants to go. In a flood instance, it's the flood is going to show us where it wants in and out of that wetland that. So instead of saying no floodwater, you're entering this only in this spot. Say, all right, this is where you want to go in and out. You're going to tear it apart. Then all right, we're going to we'll put you a new entrance and exit here too. So it's still using some of the gray infrastructure techniques, you know, things like control structures, pumps where it's appropriate for either taking water in or getting floodwater back out of unit after after the river system has gone down to that just very, very hands off passive almost. We have projects that we did in Southern Illinois. There's simply a two foot of dirt berm and a couple of truck loads of rip wrap and we restore a hundred acre Oxbow and in a river bottom. So the natural infrastructure, again, it's very similar. It's really what DU has been doing, at least in my landscape and across a lot of the Gulf Coast as well. Yeah, the Gulf Coast, the last, yeah, we looked at the, at the terracing and everything in the Gulf breakwaters very much so. Right. And again, as we talked earlier, it's just a great fit for ducks unlimited. It's when I talk to people and I talk at meetings and they say, well, what do you guys do? The bigger was field office at engineering. This, this is our thing. Like we, we love doing it and we love everybody in my office is a duck on it. Die hard guys. And they all want to see these projects have the waterfall benefits. But again, as engineers or as, as our, our Dean Kramer, one of our bios who's just also a duck nerd, they love seeing how do we work with all these other benefits that we can provide and do this stuff. So yeah, again, just a really great fit for ducks, limited in this natural infrastructure

35:22 Mike Brasher realm, I think. And as much as anything, and y'all tell me if you disagree with this, but, but a big part of where we are now is just embracing a different vernacular, a different vocabulary so that we can communicate with groups that, that are interested in our work for reasons that, that we haven't championed as much in the past, all of these, these water benefits that we talk about. And because as you said, Mike, we have been doing this type of work, these types of projects for a long time in a lot of geographies on the Gulf Coast. We've been doing marsh terracing projects for 30 years, and they are in this category of nature-based solutions, natural infrastructure, rock break waters to along the GIWW or other shorelines as a way to slow or prevent the erosion of that coastal marsh. And that's under this, under this umbrella or this label of coastal resiliency, I think it falls. We've been doing that for 20 years or longer. And we did it back then because we said those coastal marshes are eroding. They're valuable to us as a conservation organization because though they provide habitat to ducks, we knew at that time that they provided habitat for all sorts of other birds. And we talked about that. Now we're saying and talking about more explicitly and proudly that those same marshes that we're protecting with those same structures are also benefiting fisheries. They're benefiting coastal communities. They're benefiting local economies. They're benefiting carbon sequestration in some situations. I say in some situations because it's not my expertise. I don't want to make broad statements there, but that's what has happened is we're just changing the way we talk about these things. We're not so much changing fundamentally the type of work we're doing. There are some examples of that and that's a good thing. And we're going to talk about some of those because we're learning that there are ways, different ways that we can do projects to sort of maximize benefits for some of these other services, but still deliver a lot of benefits

37:27 Sara Burns to waterfowl. So with that, can I say something about that? I think it you're absolutely right. And it's, but it's also important to keep in mind that because our landscapes have changed so much and conditions have changed so much that when you go out to these sites, what you see, the infrastructure you see might look really different than how it used to look. So we're getting to the same outcome and we're trying to provide the same services and create the same habitat and work with our partners. It may not always look the same though. So I think that that's something that people

38:04 Mike Brasher just need to be aware of is that, you know, things change, it will change. And just because it changes, doesn't mean it's bad, doesn't mean it's worse. We would hope it's better. Right? If those changes are driven by our adaptations to either a changing landscape, changing environmental conditions, changing climate, changing societal interests, those changes ideally would put us in a better place. Right? Exactly. Yeah. So we're responding to those changes in order to still achieve our waterfowl mission, even though it might just be a little different looking. Yeah. That's right. Let's talk about an example in this, in this vein. I know we want to eventually get to something called Mississippi rivers and city Mississippi river cities and towns initiative. That's going to be one of the next things we talk about, but because I think it's a good transition, let's talk about some of the work that's happening in Iowa right now. Who wants to,

38:58 Sara Burns you want to kind of talk about, take, take that Sarah? So in Iowa, there's a lot of drained wetlands and a lot of nitrogen moving through those systems into the local riverways, which are drinking water. That's the sort of local concern. And then you mentioned it earlier on a broader scale, the whole state of Iowa has a commitment to reducing nitrogen. That's making its way to the Gulf of Mexico and influencing that dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. So there's a local driver and a state sort of regional driver and the Iowa department of agricultural and land stewardship. It has directed their programs, especially their wetland restoration programs through CREP. Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Thank you. I didn't remember what the E was. Yeah. To meeting that, to trying to contribute to solving the nitrogen problem. So trying to grab the nitrogen that is in the water and hold it in a wetland long enough that bacteria can actually convert it from the type of nitrogen that's bad for us and that plants use and that drive the algae to grow in the Gulf back into an inert gas. And so it's a, it's, we're getting it out of the system. This is chemistry. It is chemistry. It might be biogeochemistry. That's as far as we have to get into that. And so our, our teams led by Mike Shannon, who's a manager of conservation programs also, I think is his title. Yep. Our, our working with our engineering staff to really optimize where we put these wetlands, how they're designed and trying to really remove nitrogen. And as that program's growing, we're getting better at contacting land owners and talking to them about what matters to them and growing a working lands program. And also kind of taking a hard look at how waterfowl are using those systems as well and

41:00 Mike Brasher trying to tweak the designs, I think over time to, to really try to optimize. And so that is a situation where the, where the work that we're doing might look a little different either in the design of the wetlands or where they're located on the landscape. Right. Yes. And Ducks Unlimited talks about, and we are science based. We, we, that's why we employ scientists such as yourself in, in this space. And we're always asking the question about, are we getting what we want to, how is it benefiting waterfowl? How is it removing nutrients in the cases where we're doing work to sort of satisfy some of those, some of those needs. And so in this particular project that there's a research study going on in association with this, right? Can you talk about that a little bit? Yeah, I can. So my supervisor actually is Dr. John Colusi, who's the director. I'm sorry. John is a great friend and a great guy. Say that jokingly.

42:01 Sara Burns So he's our director of conservation planning and he's the, you know, he's our waterfowl guy. We call him Dr. John. He's helping out all around the glare, which is the Great Lakes, Atlantic region. And I think he's really helping. And so as Dr. Alan Herbert collaborate with Iowa State University, I believe the lead there is Adam Janke. Dr. Adam Janke. Yep. And they have a study that's selected wetlands that were built for waterfowl use as their primary objective. And then wetlands that were built with nitrogen removal is their primary objective and they're comparing use. They're comparing activity on it. I think they're comparing the amount of brood pairs and just really trying to figure out if there are trade-offs from those designs impacting the

42:51 Mike Brasher birds or not so that we can address it if there are. Yeah. And that's great. You know, we're wanting to collect this information and use that information to make decisions, whether those decisions are small tweaks to the type of work we're doing or to say, yeah, they're valuable to nutrient removal and ducks the way we've been designing them. I mean, it's still, that's still a decision to continue doing things the way that we have been, if that be the case. We were talking a little bit before we started recording about some of the preliminary results of that. We don't want to kind of get out in front of that on this episode. What I will say, and this occurred to me as I was here and listening to you there, Sarah, recently Campus Waterfowl, which is a another sort of media platform here of Ducks Unlimited, had an interview with Dr. Adam Janke and his graduate student. I think it's Evie. I'm not going to try to, I can't recall the last name, but anyway, Derek had a sit down conversation with them about that very project. So Campus Waterfowl, it's a recent episode. If you want to learn more about that, I encourage you to go look for that. I say a recent episode. We're actually recording this in late August. So it, that episode came out in early August, early to mid August on Campus Waterfowl. So go check it out. You can learn all about that, that study. And they may, they may share some preliminary results with you. I haven't listened to the entire episode yet, so I don't know. But anyway, a great example of how we're working in different spaces with new audiences and attracting additional resources to conserve wetlands that waterfowl are going to use. So maybe now is a good time to transition to the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. And sir, for that, and my, I'm an MRCTI, is that what we refer to it around here. I'm going to ask you to kind of give an overview and how does it fit

44:42 Mike Sertle in this broader growth area of Ducks Unlimited and trying to grow support for wetlands conservation? Sure, sure. MRCTI, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, is an organization and another nonprofit that Ducks Unlimited signed a partnership, a memorandum of common purpose with two years ago. And they are comprised of, their staff are based in St. Louis, just across the river from myself, but their membership, if you will, is 103 of the 124 mayors of Mississippi River communities. So that includes Mayor Strickland right here in Memphis. So we have signed this agreement with them to look at getting do-use habitat projects on the ground. The reason being is because we have shared goals. And the shared goals are ecosystem services, sustainability goals, as I said, as we were talking earlier, that our projects provide. So there's some of the big concerns for these river communities. They are flood water attenuation, that could be flood capture, that could be flood storage, just floodplain reconnection. Water quality, as Sarah was discussing, a lot, I won't say all, but most the river communities get their drinking water out of the Mississippi River, the Twin Cities, major metropolitan areas, St. Louis, the Quad Cities, they all get their water out of the river. Carbon sequestration, public recreation, and wildlife habitat. And right there with the overlap of DO's own mission, again, there's where we're seeing that fit of the projects that we have identified with our federal and state and nonprofit and private landowner partners up and down the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. As we were talking earlier, DO's designing these things, we're doing these projects with these things in mind, working with our science staff to look at storage capacity, how many gallons of water, right? We know surface acres, well, how deep is it? How much are we storing? What is the nitrate uptake? What is the phosphorus removal? And integrating that into this partnership with MRCTI that we work with them as one of our main partners on the Mississippi River to say, hey, Colin Wellencamp is the executive director there at MRCTI and myself and Sarah work with our field staff, our bios and our engineers, and we'll talk with Colin and say, for example, the city of Grafton, Illinois, they take flooding every five years, they're a knock on wood. Well, I hope Mayor Mauro is listening, but I hope I don't jinx Mayor Mauro when I say that we might be due for a flood in the Mississippi next year. And everybody in my office is very nervous because we have construction we need to do, right? But we say, hey, Colin, let's talk to the mayor. Ducks the Limit has a project with the US Fish and Wildlife Service or with the DNR at this wetland management floodplain site immediately upriver. And here's our design. And here's how we think in additional to all the waterfall and wetland and wildlife and public recreation benefits. Here's why we think this is a good fit for y'all because here's how many acres of floodwater we can capture and hold and let the river go down and let the water out as we want it let it out, so to speak. And working with MRCTI staff and with the mayors on the river to identify these projects and how can we work with them. And then that goes back to what Sarah was talking about identifying in addition to the NACA and private support that DU is well known for and good at. I mean, we've got some of those grant writers in the biz working on these other programs that are not really something that DU works in. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management, some of these other the jobs act for infrastructure and jobs act, some of these newer things that have come out. How do we integrate into that? And again, MRCTI and their mayors, some of them they have example. We're working with the city of Bettendorf, Iowa and Mayor Gallagher up there and they have existing FEMA funds looking at buying out flood prone homes and getting those people out of the flood plain and then Ducks Limited working with them to reconnect that part of the flood plain in town. So that's how we really this partnership and that's one example but they are our huge partner for us on the river and it's through this ecological, this sustainability lens that yeah, we're doing great stuff but again, growing up in a river community, if we can help keep flood water out of somebody's house, keep sewage from backing up or provide recreation and tourism for one of these small river communities that maybe doesn't have a lot anymore in that realm, that's fantastic. I mean, why wouldn't we? I guess is my question. If we can get all the great Duck and Waterfall benefits and yeah, we should be maximizing this for all the

49:39 Mike Brasher other great benefits to our communities. And Mike, one of the key points in that and I want to say this for all of our listeners, all of the people that go to our banquets and give of their money either at those banquets or major donors or however else they give to Ducks Unlimited, I want to be clear that really what we're talking about is leveraging all of these other benefits as a way to attract revenue from other sources, not like taking all the money that we've been getting and using it for these. I mean, not that that would necessarily be a bad thing because as we've talked about these projects still benefit waterfowl but that's not what we're doing here. What we're doing is attracting new partners, new funding sources that we traditionally weren't tapping into and we're able to do that now because we can talk about, we can measure the benefits beyond waterfowl and even beyond birds and find people that are willing to pay for those benefits the same way hunters, state and federal wildlife management agencies are willing to pay for wetlands conservation for the benefits that they provide as habitat, right? Yes, yes. And we've heard that, you know, some people and it's understandable that people would get a little antsy when the organization that they love is doing a few different things and so that's why it's so important that we clarify and communicate this is about growth in a space of new opportunities and new revenue and new partners to accelerate our conservation delivery, right? Yep. Yeah,

51:09 Mike Sertle yeah, exactly. I mean, as you look at some of our projects along the Mississippi River, we're looking at 10 to 15 million dollar price tags to build these things. NACA program, phenomenal. It has treated me very well over my years at DU. You have a perfect scored one, don't you? Whoa. I may have a top ranking one, yeah. We're still trying to, thanks to flooding, we're still trying to build stuff this year. But yeah, looking at that is, what are these, so NACA is a great program, but we literally can't stack enough NACA grants to pay for a one time 15 million dollar project. The project, the one I have in mind, it's a public waterfowl area and it's a very, very important public well and far area in the middle of a very important waterfall complex on the Mississippi River. We have to look at what are the other funding sources out there that we can access. So yeah, that's like, that is exactly it. I mean,

52:04 Sara Burns Sarah would, I don't know if you have any thoughts on that or? I do think that's exactly it. Like, it's such, it's this critical flyway habitat that happens to be the area that we have so highly managed that the floodplains don't work on the Mississippi River anymore functionally, which means that flooding is changing and it's more severe and it's more intense and there's

52:31 Mike Brasher loss of life. Like, we aren't shoehorning a partnership. Mike, you also mentioned something that I had written down here, maybe another thing that our folks are wondering about, hunting opportunities. As we talk about new types of projects or new partners that we're bringing to our projects, one of the questions might be, well, what about hunting opportunities on these? And I want to ask you that question kind of in the context of not what are those hunting opportunities, but how do we anticipate hunting opportunities on any of these projects in which we're growing to be different from hunting opportunities for the projects that we've been delivering for decades?

53:11 Mike Sertle Right? So answer that for us. Yeah. And in our landscape and the big rivers landscape, it won't, right? It won't change. It won't change. Yeah. Thank you. It won't change. The projects that we are doing, looking at how to maximize our sustainability and all the things that Sarah was talking about with flood storage and water quality, that's additive to what we were going to do. So in Illinois, for example, Illinois and Kentucky and Indiana, our focus is still on these waterfall management areas for the most part. And we're still doing these projects to improve either hunting access or hunting success or something in that vein. So as we do these ES, these ecological services projects, these natural infrastructure projects, which I just threw another term out there, it's all the same. As we look at these natural infrastructure projects, it's maintaining that. So we're still looking at that. Now there are, because of this partnership, there are projects that we will likely work on that are not really going to be hunting projects. So the city of Bettendorf, I'm pretty sure they're not going to let us get a hunting program going in the middle of town, right? But we're working with them. We're working through other funding sources. We're still looking at maximizing our event-based and our major donor and sponsor funding towards mission waterfall goals. But as we look at expanding in realms of things like sustainability, of working lands, of carbon, the recognition, again, there's this larger user base of these wetland systems. So yeah, still that waterfall hunting and water public access focus is still

54:57 Mike Brasher a very large, large component for us. The thing that I would add to that, Mike, is that when you look at our history of projects, not all of them are open for hunting, right? And that's the thing. The other thing that we try to communicate is Ducks Unlimited is not the one that is dictating or deciding what is or is not open to hunting or any other type of activity. We work with the owners of those properties, whether it be private land owners, whether it be municipalities, whether it be state agencies, federal agencies, we work with them in partnership to address their objectives and then they make the decisions on the management and hunting opportunities that are available on those lands. Obviously, we enjoy working on public land. We enjoy working in places that will provide public use opportunities. And we have thousands of projects across the US that fall into that category. But we've also always worked on properties that are privately owned that are maybe not open to public hunting, maybe open to hunting by the private individual. A lot of times they are. But yeah, it's just, it's this broad portfolio of projects on a variety of land, land ownership types that have a variety of use opportunities. And so the work that we're doing now doesn't really change that in my mind.

56:14 Mike Sertle No, no, it doesn't. Yeah, we're still seeing those opportunities on the landscape. Yeah, that vision is, it's still, yes, it's still there. The vision is still there. I mean, I think about a project we have in the Metro East and the reason we were contacted is like I was saying, they didn't have the infrastructure to maintain their habitat. And one, it's one of the most widely used public recreation sites in general in the middle of the Metro, right? But it's also one of the top five waterfall harvests sites in the entire state of Illinois every year. So yeah, it's definitely keeping all that mission in mind as we move forward with this and maintaining that. I mean, as you said, a lot of folks may not realize, for example, ducks are limited as we transfer land sometimes. If we transfer them to the Fish and Wildlife Service for a refuge, for example, that refuge manager can't open that to hunting the day we give it to them. They have to go through their own federal process. It can take up a year after we transfer land ownership to a refuge. So even in instances where folks may say, well, we can't hunt it. Well, maybe not now, but as they go through the process. And we have other instances, we had some really great projects on the Rock River in Northern Illinois. Maddie McFarland, our Northern Illinois bio has been working with Sarah and others looking at the ecological benefits, the flood storage, specifically in water quality at a DNR site. And one of the reasons again, that the DNR came to us originally is they wanted to create a new waterfall hunting area. So this was a very large floodplain site that they had not had a waterfall program. So open to bow hunting, it's open to dove hunting, but we know ducks and geese used it when it flooded. And the barfile biologist and the state staff said, Hey, you know, this is very close to the Quad Cities. It's an area. We don't have a lot of waterfall hunting opportunity in Northwest Illinois. Will you guys come work with us and do some floodplain engineering? And when we get through all these phases, we're going to, we're going to open up a new public waterfall program. Well, yeah, that's fantastic. That's a slam dunk. So if anything I've seen over at least the last decade, we really, as you said, it's the partners that own the land, you know, it's generally what their rules or some of them, what their restrictions are. Yeah, we continue and always will continue some form of open public recreation hunting, waterfall hunting, but you know, bow hunting, upland hunting, just some sort

58:49 Sara Burns of use, right? Yeah. And hopefully as we work with this, just expanding those opportunities really. Yeah. And is it, would you say it's, it's fair to say that where there can't be a recreation component, those projects are still cited and designed and planned in the context of supporting

59:11 Mike Sertle life cycle needs? Very much so. Very much so. Yeah. As you look at, for example, in upper parts, the Great Lakes, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Northern Indiana, Michigan, it's very much the breeding landscape for the Great Lakes Mallard population. Very important for, especially the Eastern more portion of the Mississippi flyway. As we look at that landscape, a lot of that is private landowners because they are, we need these small potholes, these small wetlands, this grass. It's very similar to our IDOLS program out in Iowa. So yeah. And now the benefit of us doing that work, Northeast Indiana, we've had a two decades successful private lands program with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the DNR and some great D.U. supporters and donors in Northeast Indiana. We've done almost 7,000 acres between almost 900 individual projects of small potholes and grasslands to increase that production. As I remind folks in Southern Indiana years ago, those birds come South, right? So yeah. And then as you look, you know, where my office is in the confluence, as we look to D.U.'s very successful conservation easement program on some of the private clubs and hunt clubs on what we call the Missouri side of the river over there, they, I would, I'd argue, I'm biased, but I would argue they are continentally important for waterfall populations, right? In peak years, those private clubs in the confluence are holding over a million ducks at peak. And that's just at peak, not what's come through, not what's coming after. So yeah, very, yes, very much so. There is benefit, you know, especially as you look at, in again, Mississippi River State Fish and Wildlife Area, which is right next to all these clubs. It has a private, a national wildlife refuge in it. It's also one of the most heavily utilized and high. It is the highest hunter success for waterfall in the state of Illinois. Obviously the state Fish and Wildlife area has its own rest areas. It's holding some birds, but when we have these dedicated refuges and in this instance, it's on private ground.

01:01:17 Mike Brasher Yeah, we see the benefits, the larger range of benefits for the whole area. I think one final example, maybe from the East Coast, Sarah, before we started recording, we were talking about some of the work that we're doing in the coastal salt marshes over there. So give us, give us the rundown on those types of projects and, and how are we, how are they

01:01:37 Sara Burns benefiting waterfowl? How are they intersecting interest beyond waterfowl? So our team in New England and then the North Atlantic are really focused a large part of their programs on coastal salt marshes. And I'll probably get these stats a little wrong. So I'll just,

01:02:00 Mike Brasher well, what is they say 67 or 78% of all statistics statistics are made up anyway. I thought it was 82. So we're on fair. We're on, we're in a good place.

01:02:13 Sara Burns So salt marshes are globally rare ecosystems that black ducks use and need, and they're vital for black duck populations. I can't tell you more than that. But in that geography, that's where, so along the coast of New England, down into New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, 25% of the country's population is also in that geography. So we've, I believe that statistic. Yeah, I think 24, 25, quarter, approximately a quarter. And people like to live by the coast because it's beautiful and you go crabbing and you have your yacht or whatever. So we've built all the way up to the edge of the salt marsh. Sea levels are rising. The salt marshes are getting squeezed. But as you said earlier, these are vital ecosystems for black ducks, for fisheries, for coastal economies, for slowing down the energy of storms as they come from the ocean and make landfall. And the team out there is sort of in a race, I'd say, to try to keep salt marshes existent. The projections that I've seen them share, I think is 2060, 2080, we're looking at black duck being really, really, really imperiled, really at threat, potentially loss of a lot of these ecosystems because of sea level rise. Oh, in that coastal landscape. Yeah. Yep. And so working in the coast to do environmental restoration is also tricky because so many people want to also build development on the coast. So it's highly regulated. Things can be very slow. And the science is telling us we don't have a ton of time to try to maintain these ecosystems. So our teams are working in partnership with university partners and the state and federal partners, local partners, and they're looking at opportunities to say, well, what's besides sea level rise and besides development pressure, what's wrong in these marshes? And usually the answer is, well, we just gave a bunch of people shovels in the 1930s and told them to go dig mosquito ditches as part of a worker program. And so they're just grid ditched and that ditching just changes everything about them. And so where they may have been able to keep up with sea level rise by trapping and holding sediment, they're so altered that they're struggling to do that. And so our bioengineering teams are, like I said, working in partnership to come up with low cost, low tech is what they call it, low technology solutions where they target ditches and other unstable hydrology that could cause system failure. And they go out and they cut grass and they bundle it up and it's not a ditch plug, but they put it out there and they're seeing some of these marshes with pretty low cost efforts that don't have a super stringent permitting process that takes three to five years start to heal themselves. And so our teams are working at Jim Figgies, I'm going to get this wrong, thousands of acres. He's looking at thousands of acres in Delaware and targeting, well, which low cost, low tech solution will solve the problem here and trying to come up with a

01:05:32 Mike Sertle comprehensive plan to try to secure some of these locations. It's really cool work. I love it because you bring it back around to natural infrastructure. We're putting bundles of weeds and sticks in a ditch, but it's working. And it's low cost and it's coming up with a solution that you don't have to go out and flip a switch or pull boards or open gates. So yeah,

01:05:54 Mike Brasher that's really great stuff they're doing out there. Anything else? I think we've covered a lot of ground. It's been a super conversation. Any final words that y'all want to make sure we got in?

01:06:03 Mike Sertle No, I just, yeah, as I think the Ducks Unlimited and all the great areas that we're growing in and our continued great supporter base, our expansion into other parts of society, I'm really excited. I think what Sarah and Ellen and Lauren and myself and everybody else are kind of looking at in the realm of sustainability and natural infrastructure, I really see this as being a great way for Ducks Unlimited to access not just funding, but partners and a broader audience to help us continue to really not just drive, but expand our core mission of waterfall and wetlands. And I say that as somebody who is a dyed in the wool, used to be DuckBio. I do a lot of paperwork now, but still DuckBio at heart and DuckHunter at heart. I'm excited that it's going to allow us to do the things we really need to do on the landscape as we look at what are waterfall patterns and things and whatnot looking like in the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And I think, I hope, I believe, I truly believe we are lining ourselves up now for that eventuality in the future.

01:07:22 Mike Brasher Absolutely. You know, I go back to the 2012 North American Waterfowl Management Plan. It was the revision, a pretty massive rewrite of that core document that provides an overarching sort of vision for waterfowl management, waterfowl conservation in North America. And it was that document that called out the need to embrace ecosystem service benefits of wetlands and other waterfowl habitats if we are to accelerate, truly accelerate the pace of our critical conservation to sustain, to grow and sustain waterfowl populations. That was the interest of that document. And it said, this is the way we can grow and accelerate that. It's one thing to put it on paper. It's another thing entirely to implement it and to demonstrate the true potential of that vision. And I said for the longest time, we can't do that until we staff with the right people, with the right expertise to engage in the conversation, to be a core, a lead player in this conversation. And it's really exciting over the past five years to see Ducks Unlimited add that capacity, staff capacity, add that expertise, to begin talking with new audiences, whether they be corporations, whether they be other countries about some of the work that we're doing, municipalities, mayors, all of these types of new people that we're talking about and talking with. We couldn't do it without the new people that we have and the new roles and responsibilities that we've incorporated. And it's super exciting to see the growth that it's leading to. And it's also absolutely thrilling to me to see that we are doing it while keeping an eye on the things that you talked about, waterfowl conservation. That is our mission. That is where we're headed, but we're embracing in a very real fashion all of these other benefits and trumpeting those benefits as we kind of go forward as an organization that's growing. And people like to be part of something that is growing, that is doing great things, and that is truly in this case, leaving the world a better place for all of society. So it's a pretty cool thing. Thanks to each of you and the rest of the team for your role in doing that. It's super cool. So thanks, Mike. Thanks, Sarah, for being with us. Thank you. A very special thanks to our guest on today's show, Sarah Burns and Mike Sertle. We appreciate them being here. They are some of the leaders of the organization right now in this new area of ecosystem services, sustainability, natural infrastructure, nature-based solutions, however many other words you want to put to it. It's an exciting time. We thank all of you, our members and supporters for being longtime supporters of Ducks Unlimited, for getting excited alongside us in this time of growth and new opportunity. As always, we thank our producer, Chris Isaac, who does an absolutely wonderful job with everything he does here at Ducks Unlimited, including the podcast. We also thank you, the listener, for joining us and for supporting wetlands and waterfowl conservation. And we encourage you to share this episode with your friends, tell them about the great work that we're doing, and join us on a future episode of the Ducks Unlimited podcast.

Creators and Guests

Mike Brasher
Ducks Unlimited Podcast Science Host
Ep. 514 – Innovative Growth in Wetlands and Waterfowl Conservation