By Errol Castens
TUPELO – Maury Giachelli says as of the beginning of 2013, Ducks Unlimited had conserved 13,004,228 acres of wetlands on this continent, providing safe places for ducks, geese and other wetlands-loving birds to breed, feed and raise their young.
“Here in Mississippi alone, Ducks Unlimited has conserved 302,306 acres, so what we’re doing in Mississippi has a huge impact,” said Giachelli, the organization’s north Mississippi district chairman. “What Ducks Unlimited is largely about is wetlands conservation. The main focus for our chapter is conservation in the Mississippi Flyway.”
The Ducks Unlimited website shows about 30 Ducks Unlimited-supported wetlands conservation projects in Northeast Mississippi, with several times as many for the Delta, a favorite hunting ground for many of the area’s waterfowlers.
To make those works possible, one of the organization’s focuses this time of year is annual banquets, which combine food, camaraderie, entertainment and volunteer recruitment with raffles, auctions and other fundraising efforts.
“Most of our dollars go to projects here in Mississippi as well as breeding grounds up north,” Giachelli said. “Our mission is ‘to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl.’”
DU chapters within the Magnolia State will have hosted 65 Ducks Unlimited events by the end of the year, including several upcoming in the next several days in Northeast Mississippi.
The state also has collegiate chapters at Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi, Delta State University and Millsaps College.
“Both Mississippi State and Ole Miss were ‘Sweet 16’ chapters for Ducks Unlimited,” Giachelli said, referring to the DU college-chapter ranking system based on that for NCAA basketball. “State was actually number two in the country last year, raising close to $40,000 in one night.”
Amory High School boasts one of the state’s newest chapters and its first at the high school level. Student Caleb Shelly was the sparkplug behind the effort, which will have its public launch with a Dec. 5 banquet at the school, which will include door prizes of merchandise from Ducks Unlimited, Mossy Oak and K2 Coolers.
Shelly said he was eager to help create the chapter.
“I find the outdoors fascinating and would like to have a career in wildlife one day,” he said.
Emily Tubb of the Monroe Journal contributed to this story.
Banquets This Month
• New Albany, 6 p.m., Dec. 5 at Oaks Country Club. Contact Chris Whiteside at (662) 316-7881.
• Amory High School, 6 p.m., Dec. 5 at the school. Contact Caleb Shelly at (662) 315-3396 or Amy Shelly at (662) 315-6856.
• West Point, 6 p.m., Dec. 6 at Mary Holmes College gymnasium. Contact Brad Collums at (662) 295-3975 or Charles Johnson at (662) 312-2861.
• Tombigbee River Valley (Tupelo), 6 p.m., Dec. 12 at BancorpSouth Conference Center. Contact Maury Giachelli at (256) 717-9540 or John Curlee at (662) 213-3178.