Students interested in waterfowl and wetlands now have an opportunity for focused extracurricular involvement at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
A student chapter of Ducks Unlimited, an international waterfowl and wetlands organization, held its first meeting on Dec. 9 at UWSP. Over 50 students attended the meeting where interim club officers introduced themselves and gave an overview of what members can expect from joining the group.
Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest private, non-profit waterfowl and wetlands group and is focused on education and habitat conservation. According to the organization’s website, Ducks Unlimited had over 650,000 members and conserved over 13 million acres of waterfowl habitat in North America as of Jan. 1, 2015.
Graham Steinhauer, forest ecosystem restoration major, is interim president of the club and said he is thrilled to be partnered with the parent organization. As an avid waterfowl hunter, Steinhauer was surprised to learn UWSP did not have a student chapter of the organization upon enrolling.
“I’ve been duck hunting since I was 12,” Steinhauer said. “I thought it was strange to not have a Ducks Unlimited chapter here, given the reputation of the College of Natural Resources.”
Steinhauer began pursuing the idea of starting a student chapter in fall 2014 and was referred by a UWSP staff member to Scott Hygnstrom, Douglas R. Stephens chair in wildlife. Hygnstrom had connections to people involved with the parent organization, Steinhauer said, and helped get the chapter formed. Hygnstrom is currently interim adviser to the club but will be replaced by the Kennedy-Grohne waterfowl wetlands chair once the new faculty member is hired.
“There were attempts in the past by students to get a chapter formed, but they never worked out,” Steinhauer said. “A lot of really helpful people is what it came down to.”
Waterfowl hunting is a popular activity among UWSP students, Steinhauer said, and he’s hoping club activities will empower students to make an impact locally.
“There are an insane amount of waterfowlers here,” he said. “I want the members to come to a meeting and really be like, ‘yeah let’s get some stuff done.”
Steinhauer and other interim officers said members can expect activities like regular meetings, volunteer opportunities with area organizations and landowners, as well as an annual banquet, which is a signature fundraiser for all chapters.
An existing student group covers similar topics, Steinhauer said, but the new club will be more focused in community education and outreach with waterfowl hunters forming the base of its membership.
“Outreach and education are important to the community and the school in general,” he said. “People can’t do much if they’re not educated.”
Colin Welch, resource management freshman, attended the inaugural meeting because he was hoping to get involved with projects, he said. As an avid hunter of ducks, turkeys and deer, Welch is familiar with the parent organization and supports its work. He thinks the hunting culture at UWSP will lend a comfortable atmosphere to the club.
“I like what they do,” Welch said. “I know a lot of people duck hunt around here, especially in the Mead wildlife area. I think it’d be fun to get involved.”
Kenny Bielski, forest habitat restoration sophomore, said he likes the conservation work done by Ducks Unlimited and plans to get involved with the club and perhaps become a club officer.
“I hunt both goose and ducks,” Bielski said. “I think it would be good to be a part of this group because it’s what I like to do.”