California Waterfowl is a 501c3 organization whose mission is to grow California’s waterfowl populations, wetlands and hunter-conservationist communities.
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, CWA initiated waterfowl studies in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) to determine 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 60%-70% of mallards taken by hunters in California had been hatched and reared 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 adults. Now the organization recognizes that hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation are crucial to the future of wetlands because hunters are the most motivated and passionate force for wetland conservation.
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 and wintering habitat.
In 2009, 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.
California Waterfowl also became a wetland owner and manager in 2012 with the acquisition of the Grizzly Ranch and Denverton duck clubs in the Suisun Marsh, funded by donations and grants. It acquired two properties in the Tulare Basin the following year – the Badger Almond and Houchin units of Goose Lake – with similar funding mechanisms, and was given properties in the California Delta (Quimby Island) and Butte Sink (Butte Creek Island Ranch) in 2015 and 2016, respectively. In 2018, CWA acquired the Sanborn Slough duck club adjacent to Butte Creek Island Ranch. California Waterfowl uses these properties for wetland conservation, to offer hunting for the general public and to provide educational programs for school children and hunters.
While duck hunter numbers remain steady in California, CWA knows hunters alone cannot meet the needs of waterfowl. So it has 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. CWA also ensures they know that hunters led the original charge to stem the loss of wetlands in California, and continue to drive conservation efforts in this state.
California Waterfowl has established the following strategies for 2018-23:
Increase advocacy impact at state/federal levels. Protect hunting rights and wetland water supplies. Advocate for wildlife-friendly agriculture. Support regulations that expand hunting opportunity and hunter recruitment. Increase state and federal funding for habitat and wetland water supplies. Mobilize members to support advocacy efforts. Build relationships with state and federal lawmakers to help advance our mission.
Expand waterfowl and wetland conservation. Increase acres of wetlands acquired, protected, restored, enhanced and managed. Work with partners to restore wetlands through grants and privately funded projects. Evaluate and grow waterfowl populations.
Grow hunting opportunity, access and quality. Acquire land that allows the integration of program activities for maximum impact. Grow opportunities and participation in the Hunt Program. Increase awareness of and participation in the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman and Veteran Hunt programs.
Grow hunter and conservation education. Train and mentor new hunters. Teach non-hunters about waterfowl and wetland ecology and hunters’ role in conservation. Grow participation in hunter conservation camps and other training events. Increase non-hunting conservation education. Cultivate and inspire the next generation of conservation leaders.