Clayton Whitaker, a senior at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, has been awarded this year’s SEARK Chapter Delta Waterfowl Scholarship. Whitaker is pictured above, left, with Dr. Glenn Manning, UAM faculty member.
The $500 scholarship is applied toward tuition for students majoring in Agriculture or Wildlife Management. To be considered for the scholarship, students were asked to write a short essay on the importance of waterfowl and habitat preservation. Whitaker’s essay focused primarily on native duck species and the ever disappearing habitat. Whitaker’s winning essay:
Waterfowl Habitat Preservation
Many people don’t realize the threat of significantly decreased waterfowl populations in North America is very real. The loss of habitat, especially waterfowl habitat, is a serious issue that management agencies and private landowners have been battling for many years. Most of the hardwood bottomland systems found along the Mississippi river have been cut either for timber value or to expand agricultural ventures, prairie grasslands in the prairie pothole region have been altered or destroyed due to urbanization or farming, and numerous other wetland types across the country have been drained or done away with for some of the same reasons.
Managing for waterfowl is very unique when compared to other species’ management because waterfowl require a variety of habitat types to supply them with what they need throughout the year. To make it even more challenging, different species of waterfowl in different regions also require different resources to be successful. A mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) found in the Mississippi Flyway will have different needs at different times of the year than a canvasback (Aythya valisineria) found in the Atlantic Flyway. While there are many programs such as CRP, WRE, and EQIP that try to counteract habitat loss, without adequate funds to implement these programs, we will continue to experience waterfowl habitat loss. Further loss of essential waterfowl habitat will result in a decline of many, if not all, species of waterfowl across North America.
I avidly pursue waterfowl during hunting season, but my interest does not stop there. I have assisted in banding operation in the southern portion of Arkansas, and am always eager to see what the resulting data from those bands has to say. It seems very clear to me that without more people, hunters or not, who care enough about waterfowl conservation to lend a helping hand, ducks and geese will find it increasingly hard to survive and reproduce in America.