20080415_DUBlackhorizontalDES MOINES, Iowa,  – At it’s recent annual State Convention, Ducks Unlimited recognized several individuals and organizations for their dedicated efforts to improve Iowa’s wetland and waterfowl resources by presenting them with 2010 Conservation Awards. This year’s recipients included:

  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources – Partner of the Year
  • Chris LaRue, Iowa DNR Wildlife Biologist – Professional of the Year
  • State Rep. Paul Bell and State Sen. Dick Dearden – Public Policy Champions of the Year
  • James Roetman and Nicki Bunda – Beyond the Call Award

“We’re extremely grateful for the outstanding leadership and dedication these folks have displayed in their personal and professional lives to help advance wetland and waterfowl conservation in Iowa,” said Eric Lindstrom, DU regional biologist. “Without partners like these, achieving DU’s habitat conservation mission simply would not be possible.”

Partner of the Year, the Iowa DNR, has worked closely with DU on a number of habitat conservation projects in Iowa and throughout Canada since 1973. In fact, the DNR has contributed over $1.1 million to DU’s state grants program, which provides matching funds for habitat conservation work in Canada, a primary source of origin for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl that migrate through the state each year. The DNR recently renewed their commitment to this international partnership by committing another $36,000 in 2010 for habitat conservation work in Saskatchewan. In addition, the DNR and DU recently strengthened their commitment to DU’s Living Lakes Initiative by pledging another $2 million over the next three years to conserve targeted waterfowl habitat throughout Iowa’s Prairie Pothole Region.

“It’s an honor to receive this award on behalf of the DNR,” said Rich Leopold, DNR director. “DU is definitely one of our most valued partners, and it is a privilege to work side-by-side with them to conserve critical habitat that will benefit Iowa’s wetlands, waterfowl and its people.”

The Professional of the Year award was presented to Chris LaRue, who is a wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR. Chris helps manage over 22,000 acres of public wildlife management areas across five counties in northwest Iowa. Throughout his career, Chris has helped promote and deliver numerous wetland conservation projects throughout the Great Lakes Wildlife Unit, including several recently completed projects like Diamond Lake and Jemmerson Slough in Dickinson County.

“As an avid waterfowler and dedicated conservationist, Chris displays an unprecedented passion for wetlands and waterfowl conservation,” said Lindstrom. “These defining characteristics are exemplified in his personal and professional life.”

The Public Policy Champion awards were presented to State Rep. Paul Bell of Newton and State Sen. Dick Deaden of Des Moines for their leadership to gain overwhelming bipartisan support for the passage of sustainable funding legislation in 2008-2009, which will allow Iowans the opportunity to create a constitutionally-protected Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. If approved by voters in November 2010, this trust fund would provide important state funding for the protection of Iowa’s water quality, fertile agricultural soils and the enhancement of natural areas, including parks, trails, and fish and wildlife habitat.

“Rep. Bell and Sen. Dearden have shown tremendous leadership and resolve to champion the passage of sustainable funding,” said Lindstrom. “Thanks to their tireless and visionary efforts, Iowans will have a unique opportunity to vote for this landmark legislation.”

The Beyond the Call award was presented to James Roetman and Nicki Bunda of Pochahontas for their work to help coordinate a statewide volunteer effort to create a DU vanity license plate in Iowa. Under this partnership with the Iowa DNR and Department of Transportation, all proceeds raised by the sale of these plates will be reinvested in habitat conservation activities in Iowa. Since launching this program about a year ago, Iowans have helped raise nearly $20,000 of additional funding for habitat conservation.

“This new annual revenue stream will be leveraged with other private, state and federal funds to expand our conservation programs in Iowa,” Lindstrom said. “Our goal is to continue to expand the license plate program over the next several years.”

Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved almost 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.

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Iowa DU State Chairman James Roetman (left), Rep. Paul Bell, Sen. Dick Dearden and DU Regional Biologist Eric Lindstrom