Much of South Carolina's natural waterfowl habitat has been lost, as have natural habitats all across the United States. Obviously, this loss has a negative impact on waterfowl and other wildlife. The United States used to maintain the world's most massive expanse of grasslands, a major nesting habitat for waterfowl, but this vital ecosystem has dwindled [source: Ducks].
The South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA) has spent the last 22 years working to protect and restore local wetlands and rehabilitate lost habitats. A 501(3)(c) non-profit organization started in the 1980s, SCWA works with waterfowl experts, conservation leaders, volunteers, biologists, private landowners and local youth to increase waterfowl populations and restore Atlantic Flyway natural resources.
In this article, you will learn how the association began, some of the projects it is undertaking, and the accomplishments it has enjoyed thus far.
You will also learn about the mission of the South Carolina Waterfowl Association, how the organization's beliefs help young people become conservation stewards, and how private and public landowners have become a locally based solution to natural waterfowl habitat loss.
After learning about the SCWA, you might want to learn how you can help the association achieve its goals and support its efforts. We'll show you how to join the organization and explain the importance of active volunteers and their roles in promoting and accomplishing the mission of the association.
And finally, this article will provide links to additional materials about the South Carolina Waterfowl Association and their longstanding beliefs about hunting. It's about more than shooting birds; it's about responsibility, heritage, family time, finding and appreciating the beauty of the outdoors, leaving no trace and establishing a legacy for the next generation.
Before we get into what you can do for the future, let's explore the past. First up is the history of the South Carolina Waterfowl Association.
South Carolina Waterfowl Association History
Executive Director David Wieliki founded the South Carolina Waterfowl Association in 1986 using his own funds and modeling it after the successful California Waterfowl Association.
In less than a decade, the association had grown and was reaching out to other conservation programs and interested individuals to help increase wetland and waterfowl populations. Through a variety of programs and projects, the South Carolina Waterfowl Association has become one of the largest in the nation [source: Wieliki].
In 1993, the SCWA started its own Mallard Restoration and Research program, and, by collaborating with private landowners, began releasing Frost Waterfowl Trust mallards from distribution sites across the state. Releasing more than 20,000 mallards a year, the Association has released more than 219,435 since it started [source: SCWA].
The South Carolina Wood Duck Production Project is the largest in the nation. In an effort to increase wood duck populations, the SCWA builds and installs thousands of nest boxes annually. Total production is close to 600,000 wood ducks hatched and more than 30,000 songbirds hatched since the project began in 1987 [source: SCWA].
More than 60,000 ducks and geese have been added to South Carolina's population due to various SCWA waterfowl enhancement projects, and more than 500 acres of Japanese millet and rice have been planted on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie in South Carolina. [source: SCWA].
Youth programs reach more than 3,000 children each year, introducing them to waterfowl conservation and wetland rehabilitation [source: SCWA].
The vision of the South Carolina Waterfowl Association is as rich as its history. Read on to learn more about conservation, waterfowl and the mission of the SCWA.
South Carolina Waterfowl Association Mission
David Wieliki's love of waterfowl began long before he founded the SCWA. It started the very first time he and his father went duck hunting together. Though they didn't shoot any ducks, seeing a large brace land on the water in front of him instilled a lifelong appreciation of nature and love of the outdoors in the young boy [source: Wieliki].
The South Carolina Waterfowl Association is made up of a full staff of specialists, technicians and wetland and waterfowl biologists collaborating with more than 600 landowners. Everyone works together for "the wise management and use of our natural resources to provide maximum sustainable benefits from these resources to future generations of mankind" [source: Idealist].
Conservation through education is one of the ways the South Carolina Waterfowl Association informs people about wildlife and wildlife conservation. Through programs like the International Youth Waterfowl Education Center, the SCWA is able to reach out to thousands of boys and girls throughout South Carolina. Camp Woodie, a summer waterfowl and wildlife youth camp, offers hands-on conservation education and youth hunting programs every summer.
You don't have to be from South Carolina to join the South Carolina Waterfowl Association. You don't even have to open your wallet if you don't want to. Read on to find out how to help the South Carolina Waterfowl Association achieve its goals.
Joining the South Carolina Waterfowl Association
Joining the South Carolina Waterfowl Association is easy. Though almost 90 percent of wildlife conservation programs across the country are supported by hunters, only 5 percent of the population hunts, and the numbers are decreasing. The association puts emphasis on memberships and volunteering as very important aspects of programs like the SCWA, that must be maintained to continue to preserve and enhance our natural resources [source: Wieliki].
Interested individuals can join at any of six different SCWA member levels, each with different fees including a lifetime membership that can be paid over the course of five years. Corporate memberships are also available and interested parties are asked to call the SCWA for more information [source: SCWA].
SCWA membership comes with benefits like hatpins and decals, the South Carolina Waterfowl Association quarterly magazine, plaques, tickets to local chapter dinners and invitations to locally sponsored events.
Local chapter volunteers are able to participate in the Wood Duck Project (under the direction of the chapter chairperson) by installing and maintaining nest boxes. The Youth Waterfowl Hunting Program requires volunteers to help with hunter safety presentations and guide young hunters through a duck hunt.
For more information on the South Carolina Waterfowl Association and other hunting and conservation topics, check out the resources on the next page.
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More Great Links
- Ducks Unlimited. "Habitat Conservation" (accessed 12/11/08) http://www.ducks.org/Conservation/Habitat/1596/HabitatHomepage.html
- Idealist "South Carolina Waterfowl Association Mission" (accessed 12/11/08) http://www.idealist.org/en/org/20695-257
- South Carolina Waterfowl Association. (accessed 12/11/08)http://www.scwa.org/index.html
- Wieliki, David. Personal Interview, 12/11/08