Nebraska Ducks Unlimited

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The 1930s were a difficult time for Americans. The Great Depression left many families destitute, and farmers attempted to make up for their losses and low crop values by cultivating more land. To make matter worse, the Great Plains and Midwest experienced severe drought throughout the 1930s, and this lack of water coupled with increased agricultural pressure damaged fragile prairie grasses from the Llano Estacado of Texas to the boreal forests in Canada. Topsoil on the Plains that had accumulated over millennia dried and was blown as far away as New York City, where ships in Long Island Sound lay cloaked by the dust of the dying prairie thousands of miles away.

Things were no better in Canada. Vast wetlands in Alberta, Manitoba, and other provinces were drained so that the land could be cultivated. However, the soil beneath these marshes, which contained high levels of peat, proved poor for farming. Worse yet, the peat dried and easily caught fire. Draining marshes also damaged the water table on the Canadian prairie. Families who were already contending with the greatest drought in living memory suddenly found their wells dry.

Like those wells, Canada’s waterfowl populations had been depleted. Breeding birds found their Canadian nesting grounds destroyed and waterfowl populations plunged on both sides of the border. As a result, in the United States, bird refuges were established, and the first Federal Duck Stamp was issued in 1934. The Bureau of Biological Survey, forerunner of today’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, spent funds on habitat restoration projects in the United States but could do nothing in Canada. By 1936, the waterfowl season was shortened to just 30 days, and species like canvasbacks, brant, wood ducks, buffleheads, redheads, and others were fully protected. Live decoys, bait, and shotguns larger than 10-gauge were banned. Some hunters predicted that by 1937 waterfowl hunting would be closed entirely. Others believed it might be too late to save America’s waterfowl.  Nebraska Ducks Unlimited
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