From the 1930s through to the late 90s, volunteers in Cochrane and across the nation would trek into their local wetlands and wildlife habitats – sometimes by canoe or horseback – and report the conditions to Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) – a conservation group.
Eighty years after its inception and now one of Canada’s leading conservation groups in the country, DUC is looking for those volunteers – known as keemen and keewomen – to commemorate their legacies as part of the anniversary celebrations.
“As part of the 80th, we wanted to tip our hat to some of the first volunteers who helped give the organization its wings, ” said Ashley Lewis, a DUC representative.
“We’ve put out this call – media releases across the country – looking for some original keemen and keewomen or even their friends and family who would be able to share some interesting stories and memories and experiences with the organization. ”
The keemen/women program started in 1938 – the same year DUC first began – and since then, more than 6.4 million acres of wetlands and associated habitats across Canada have been conserved or restored including 26,000 acres in Alberta.
In the early wetland conservation efforts, these volunteers were key.
“They basically acted as Ducks Unlimited Canada’s eyes and ears on the landscape. They would travel around their local area, sometimes on horseback, sometimes in canoes and they would report on their observations, ” Lewis said.
The observations included anything from habitat conditions, number of waterfowl or wildlife that they saw and even things like the weather.
“They were able to tell Ducks Unlimited Canada about the state of conditions across the prairies and their reports actually could have led to potential sites for future conservation projects and so on, ” Lewis said, adding the volunteers were sometimes referred to as citizen scientists.
Though the program wound down in the late 1990s, a voluntary program – Marsh Keepers – was recently launched in Alberta, which Lewis said has similar flavours to the keemen/women program but instead volunteers visit DUC projects in the province and assist with maintenance.
“Our supporters really come from all walks of life, which includes hunters and non hunters, people who like to canoe or like to photograph wildlife. Really anyone who believes in the power of conservation you could say and who believes it’s important to give back to the natural world. ”
Lewis said celebrating volunteers is the most important theme of their anniversary because the organization still heavily relies on them.
“Volunteers are extremely important drivers of the success we have – 5,900 volunteers right across the country, ” Lewis said, adding that DUCs receives great support from the Cochrane area.
“Cochrane is a conservation-minded community which is wonderful. The local Ducks Unlimited chapter there now is very strong, ” she said. “I’d just like to say thank you to everyone for their support and interest in conservation. ”
Cochrane’s annual Ducks Unlimited Banquet will be held in March.
If you were a past keeman or keewoman, or know someone that was send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-665-3825.