For as long as Wayne State chemical engineering student Adam Smith can remember, nature has been a part of his life. In fact, he spends hours in the wilderness, hunting.
Since childhood, Smith has been involved with the national conservation organization Ducks Unlimited. When he transferred schools two years ago, he saw a chance to bring his passion for the outdoors to students at WSU.
One glaring obstacle for WSU Ducks Unlimited has been the misconception about what members expect the organization to do.
Smith explained that as he began to start Michigan’s second Ducks Unlimited chapter here at WSU, he saw a division within the organization.
“There’s two sides to Ducks Unlimited,” Smith said. “There a lot of guys that are big into hunting and there’s other guys that aren’t into hunting and raise money for rebuilding refuge for wildlife.”
Two years ago, WSU lacked any environmental conservation organizations. Ducks Unlimited is currently the only animal-related or environmental conservationist student organization on campus.
“I saw that we didn’t have anything like [Ducks Unlimited] and I thought it would be a good challenge trying to get people to start saving our wetlands,” Smith said.
America is currently down to only 20 percent of available wetlands and part of Ducks Unlimited organization is dedicated to preserving these freshwater environments through rebuilding, clean-up and preservation.
WSU Ducks Unlimited has participated in numerous marsh cleanups around metro Detroit, and Smith considers his chapter of the organization to be more about the environment than anything else.
“It’s not about hunting, its just a lot of the guys that want to help out end up being hunters, so it’s their way of putting back into nature what they take out,” Smith said.
Senior History major Alexandra Reading supports Ducks Unlimited's presence on campus and as an organization, because they’re preserving tradition and managing waterfowl populations that can no longer be controlled on their own.
“I think it’s the natural order of things, Ducks Unlimited is saving environments where most natural predator populations have been driven out,” Reading said. “They’re hunting them while also keeping that balance with nature.”
Reading thinks that this new student organization can introduce students who hunt to environmental conservation.
“Students who are interested in hunting can learn more about how to save the environments so they can promote helping the environment as a whole,” Reading said.
Some of the environmental conservation activities Ducks Unlimited has been a part of include, fundraising to purchase land to set aside for waterfowl, clean-ups in wetland around metro Detroit and tracking waterfowl migration patterns.
Reading believes the two contradicting ideas of hunting and environmental conservation can exist in an organization like Ducks Unlimited as long as it continues to support both ideas.
“I think [Ducks Unlimited] has to have an equal balance of both hunting and environmentalism if they continue to support the protecting and managing these at-risk habitats,” Reading said.
Ducks Unlimited member Jonathan Mayer joined Ducks Unlimited as a way to find this healthy balance.
Mayer had been fishing and hunting for years when Smith tracked him down and approached him about joining.
He was instantly interested because he saw Ducks Unlimited as a way to give back to wildlife.
“I grew up doing a lot of things outdoors and in the last five years I got into hunting, and I just wanted to give something back, WSUDU was the way to start,” Mayer said.
Mayer believes the organization's dedication to ducks and their habitats has created a strong attraction for hunters that often misrepresents the chapter’s true purpose. He also admitted that while hunting connected him to Ducks Unlimited, over the years, he has developed a genuine love for the wetlands and waterfowl that has driven him to protect it.
“If you’ve ever seen a squirrel on campus and tried to get really close to it, imagine getting almost thousands of ducks and geese to land right on top of you, there is nothing like it,” said Mayer. “I couldn’t imagine living in a world where I don’t get to do that.”