Birds of a feather

Ducks Unlimited chapter has helped protect wildlife for 25 years

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As a child, Allan Reishus witnessed what he considered a tragedy.

"I grew up in southern Minnesota and saw wetlands disappearing," he said.

So when he got old enough to do something about it, he did. He founded Craig's chapter of Ducks Unlimited, and 25 years later, the group is going strong.

"I see wildlife habitat disappearing across the country," Reishus, the chapter's chairman, said. "There's not much I can do as an individual, but there's plenty I can do with Ducks Unlimited to save 11 million acres."

The international group has 5,000 chapters in Canada, Mex--ico and the United States. Its members have raised enough money to help preserve millions of acres.

Locally, Ducks Unlimited members have contributed about $250,000 to the projects in the 25 years. It's money raised through the group's annual banquet, including the 25th annual dinner Saturday at the Holiday Inn.

"The great thing about DU is about 80 percent of the money generated actually goes back to habitat," four-year member Craig Eckroth said.

The Craig chapter boasts about 100 members, 10 of whom serve on the committee. The only responsibility, Reishus said, is organizing the banquet each fall.

Several local businesses donate items for raffle and auction. After paying the dinner's expenses each year, local members typically send the international office about $10,000.

That money is the used to preserve habitats, typically in conjunction with state or federal agencies. Some of the funds have been used for regional projects such as Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge and Yampa River State Park.

"It's for all kinds of critters, large and small, from moose down to crickets," Reishus said. "We think about future generations -- it's not just for here and now."

Mike Anson, who has served as the group's treasurer for five years, has that mindset. He can remember attending banquets as a child and seeing the difference the group has made in his years.

"I'm an outdoors person, and it seems to be a good way to give back to the outdoors a little bit," Anson said.

Many members do hunt waterfowl, but that's not the main focus of the group, Eckroth said.

"It's for hunting, but also so wildlife has a place to flourish," Eckroth said. "Whether you're a hunter or a photographer, everyone benefits."

For more information on the group, visit www.ducks.org.

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