The talk around the fish-supper table rambled from the one that got away to the comeback of the beaver and eventually wound up with a plan to help out Georgia’s waterfowl population. Wood ducks are glad it did.
Back in 1999, David Beecher, of Lyons, and a group of friends were discussing how the beaver had brought back quite a bit of our state’s natural waterfowl habitat, but they were bemoaning the lack of natural tree cavities for wood duck nesting sites. From that conversation evolved the Duck Conservation Society (DCS), and in the 11 years since, more than 2,500 wood-duck boxes have been erected as a result.
David estimates seven or so ducks per nesting, so the math is pretty impressive. So, too, are the mission and management behind the program.
“We have a list of FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter instructors all over the state that are wanting their kids to build duck boxes,” David said. “What we do is get a chapter going in the local county; the boxes built stay in that county, and the funds that are raised in that county stay in that county for duck conservation.”
Reed Waldrep is an Agricultural Education teacher and FFA advisor at West Laurens High School, near Dublin. Reed and his students became interested in the program in 2009, building 60 boxes, and will build another 60 this school year, so the program is well entrenched there.
“Right now we have 28 students working on them, and each student is responsible for two boxes,” Reed said. “The Duck Conservation Society provides us with rough-cut cypress lumber, hinges and locks that go on the box, and when they put it up they also provide the landowner with a pole and predator shield.”
Each box is built to DNR standards. DCS representatives pick up the boxes from the West Laurens FFA and put them up wherever the landowner chooses, whether it’s on his property, a hunting club, etc. At the time the box is installed, GPS coordinates are taken and entered into the DCS database. Each year thereafter, the DCS technician will return to clean and make repairs to each box. Nesting ducks will not use a box in disrepair.
“The program has really grown from such a simple idea,” David said. “When the economy dropped, we thought that was it, but we’ve had a great last six months. But if it wasn’t for the schools, we’d be dead in the water.”
Reed is appreciative of the effect the DCS has had on his students. While a duck hunter himself, he also sees the educational aspects his classes benefit from.
“DCS comes in and does a seminar on wood ducks and the importance of what the group is doing to help them,” he said. “From that, the students understand the ‘why’ of what they’re doing, and that helps them take pride in the job. It gives them ownership in the conservation process.”
DCS has 13 county chapters in the program in Georgia with four more ready to come on board, said David. The program has hopes of expanding to include a chapter in every county in Georgia.
To become a DCS member or to learn more about the program, contact David Beecher at (912) 282-3661. Initial membership is $250, which will get you four duck boxes installed and serviced. After the first year, the fee is $50 per year to have the boxes kept up.