Partner Profile: Conserving wetlands with Ducks Unlimited

Community News

Salt Lake City, Utah, Foundation
Great Salt Lake, home to many important biological and wildlife species, is a critical breeding ground for millions of migratory birds every year.

Ducks Unlimited (DU) is on an admirable mission to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitats for millions of North America’s waterfowl. From the Great Salt Lake in Utah to floodplains in Washington and prairies in North Dakota, DU is advancing multiple projects that will improve wildlife habitats.

“Wetlands are incredibly important, and we’ve lost so many of them over the years in this country,” said Jessop Boden, Ducks Unlimited Director of Development. “That’s why it’s critical we protect the ones we still have.”

To help further its mission, DU, the world’s leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation, partnered with Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) to advance projects across several states, using multiple grants provided by MPC.

A levee on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, part of the focus of the $100,000 grant Ducks Unlimited received from MPC to repair damage to the levee and water-control systems caused by erosion.

Rebuilding in Utah

One of the larger projects where MPC’s grant money is already making a positive impact is at Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area in Utah, part of the Great Salt Lake Initiative. DU used part of a $100,000 community investment grant from MPC to rebuild sections of a severely eroded levee system on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. The donation also helped DU secure a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant, federal funding that required private philanthropic support to receive. 

“The investment by MPC is helping us pursue our mission by supporting these projects designed to ensure the future of these critical habitats, while also making sure they function properly,” said Boden.

In total, the $100,000 in grant money from MPC is supporting three projects in Utah that focus on wetlands conservation.

  • Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area, Hooper, Utah
  • Bear River wetlands, Brigham, Utah
  • Bear River Duck Club, Brigham, Utah

“Levees and water-control structures are all critical infrastructure to manage our wetlands and control water, and this specific project was our first in Utah in over 10 years,” said Coryna Hebert, DU Regional Biologist. “Had nothing been done, and due to the speed at which the levee system was eroding, we were about to lose 2,000 acres of emergent marsh habitat.”

The marsh habitat helps during times of drought and flooding and supports a much larger ecosystem. DU estimates more than 5 million shorebirds and up to 4 million waterfowl use this region annually, making it one of the most important wetland complexes in North America.

Wetlands around the Great Salt Lake, critical to the health of the lake.

“This place, Great Salt Lake and the area around it, is really a rest stop, an oasis in the desert for all sorts of migratory species,” said Casey Snider, Ducks Unlimited Water Outreach Specialist. “The work we’re doing here will impact the entire intermountain west.”

"Ducks Unlimited does such important work preserving critical elements of our natural environment, and Marathon is happy to support their efforts," said Brad Shafer, MPC Government Affairs Manager, a key player in the partnership with DU. "Because of our long-time presence in the community here, it is important to us that we invest to sustain habitats like these for generations to come."

Restoration in the Pacific Northwest

MPC also gave DU $221,000 that was raised at the company’s 2022 charity golf tournament in San Antonio. DU is using that grant to complete four similar projects in Washington state.

  • Red Creek Floodplain Restoration, Skagit County, Washington
  • Nookachamps Floodplain Restoration, Skagit County, Washington
  • Guemes Island Wetland Restoration and Habitat Improvement, Skagit County, Washington
  • Leading Restoration and Public Access Planning at Ebey Island

“Combined, these four completed projects could ultimately lead to restoration of nearly 1,000 acres in Washington, including near Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in Anacortes,” Boden said. “These projects in Washington will not only improve habitat for fish, waterfowl and wildlife but will also positively impact water quality and quantity for people across the Pacific Northwest.”

DU crews planted dense willow to shade out reed canary grass in the Nookachamps Floodplain Restoration project in Skagit County, Washington.  

Park development in North Dakota

Most recently, MPC provided DU with a $40,000 grant to support a project at Clairmont Family Conservation Park in Bismarck, North Dakota. DU has partnered with Bismarck Parks and Recreation District to develop a 117-acre nature-based park, which includes wetland and prairie restoration areas. Previously, MPC’s refinery in Mandan, North Dakota, provided DU with a $5,000 gift earmarked for the park.

View from the ground at Clairmont Family Conservation Park in Bismarck, North Dakota. DU has partnered with Bismarck Parks and Recreation District to develop a 117-acre nature-based park, which includes wetland and prairie restoration areas.
Aerial view of Clairmont Family Conservation Park, where grant dollars from MPC are supporting DU’s work to develop the 117-acre nature-based park in Bismarck, North Dakota.


Areas that are periodically flooded and under normal conditions contain plants that require saturated soils for growth. Wetlands provide habitat for more than 900 species of plants and animals. They also provide a host of benefits to people, including flood prevention, water quality improvement, coastal storm buffering, groundwater replenishment and recreational opportunities. Source: DU


DU has conserved more than 18 million acres since 1937.