California Waterfowl is a 501c3 organization whose mission is to sustain and grow California’s waterfowl populations, wetlands and hunter-conservationist community.
Our vision is a California with thriving waterfowl populations, vibrant wetland ecosystems and respected hunting communities.
California Waterfowl was founded in 1945 as the Duck Hunters Association of California with the sole purpose of influencing hunting regulations and other government activities that affected waterfowl in California.
By the early 1980s, the challenges facing waterfowl and hunting had greatly expanded. In 1985, the association initiated waterfowl studies in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) to determine the factors that limited waterfowl populations in California and the Pacific Flyway.
Prior to that time, it was widely believed that conditions in northern breeding grounds influenced the population of ducks wintering in California. However, research showed clearly that 70% of mallards taken by hunters in California had been born in California—in other words, local breeding habitat has a huge influence on mallard abundance during the winter.
By 1991, a decline in hunter numbers was becoming pronounced, so California Waterfowl began introducing children to hunting and the outdoors through educational outreach, a program that would later be extended to serve adults. Now the organization recognizes that hunter recruitment and retention, as well as reactivation of lapsed hunters, are crucial to the future of conservation, quite simply because hunters are the most motivated and passionate force for wetland conservation in California.
California Waterfowl began undertaking substantial habitat restoration efforts in 1998, and habitat work has come to represent the bulk of the organization’s expenditures, funded largely by major public and private grants, but leveraged with membership fees. Our work focuses on both breeding habitat and wintering habitat.
In 2012, California Waterfowl initiated its Hunt Program, which provides private-land hunting opportunities to CWA members. Lack of access to hunting land is one of the leading causes of people giving up on hunting; CWA addresses that need by providing opportunity to 2,000 hunters each year. In the same year, the organization acquired the first of its five wetland properties, which it has subsequently used to showcase habitat restoration techniques, educate the public about waterfowl and wetlands and offer hunting opportunities to the public.
While duck hunter numbers remain essentially steady in California, we know hunters alone cannot meet the needs of waterfowl. So we have a substantial school outreach program to ensure that all of tomorrow’s leaders—whether they hunt or not—are aware of the staggering beauty and needs of the waterfowl that grace our skies and wetlands. We also ensure that they know about hunters’ role in the initial preservation of wetlands in California and in ongoing conservation efforts.
California Waterfowl has established the following strategic goals for 2018-23:
Increase Impact of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy Efforts at All Levels of Government: Protect hunting rights and wetland water supplies. Advocate for wildlife-friendly agriculture. Support regulations and laws that expand hunting opportunity and aid in hunter recruitment. Increase state and federal funding for habitat water supplies. Mobilize members to support advocacy efforts. Build relationships with state and federal lawmakers and their staffs to help advance our mission.
Expand Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation in California: Increase acres of wetlands restored, acquired and managed. Work with partners to restore wetlands through grants, easements and privately funded projects. Evaluate waterfowl populations. Grow the California Wood Duck Program, cultivating the next generation of leaders in wood duck conservation. Acquire wetlands and agricultural land for wetland restoration, hunter access and other CWA programs. Raise $100 million in assets—land and endowments—for the acquisition and management of properties that support hunting and education programs.
Improve Access and Opportunity to, and Quality of, Hunting in California: Grow participation in hunter conservation camps and other training events. Grow opportunities and participation in the Hunt Program. Increase awareness of and participation in the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program.
Grow Hunter and Non-Hunter Education about Waterfowl in California: Train hunters and teach non-hunters about waterfowl and wetland ecology and hunting’s role in conservation. Grow participation in hunter conservation camps and other training events. Increase education opportunities.