Former Ducks Unlimited Leader Receives Honor for Service to Conservation

Curtis Hopkins, Ph.D. Named National Blue-Winged Teal Award Winner

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan partners recognized Ducks Unlimited’s (DU) retired Director of the Southern Region, Dr. Curtis Hopkins, as the 2017 National Blue-Winged Teal Award winner at the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) annual meeting in Louisville this week. The award honors extraordinary commitment to conservation and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP).

“Curtis exemplifies commitment to the conservation of North American waterfowl,” said Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture Coordinator Keith McKnight. “His contributions to NAWMP are manifold, but can best be illustrated by the number of significant firsts he initiated and supported throughout his career.”

Working for the U.S. Forest Service, Dr. Hopkins initiated the first wood duck nest box program on Delta National Forest in the early 1970s, and he was instrumental in developing initial plans for greentree reservoirs on the Forest. Hopkins went on to become DU’s first private lands conservation director, during which time he prepared the first North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant proposal for private lands work in the duck-rich delta of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The profound influence of his early work in cooperation with private landowners reverberates through the efforts that continue to this day.

Demonstrating a unique and vital ability to develop partnerships, Dr. Hopkins developed the first cooperative agreement between DU and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which enabled DU to deliver Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) restoration. This arrangement continues today, with DU delivering significant amounts of the WRP work in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. This year marks the 25th anniversary of WRP, and partners celebrated 700,000 acres of restoration work in the three states earlier this month. Dr. Hopkins was on hand for the celebration.

“Curtis Hopkins has been a dedicated conservationist for more than 40 years,” DU Southern Region Director of Conservation Programs Craig LeSchack said as he presented the award. “His accomplishments for waterfowl, wetlands, and natural resource conservation are long-lasting and extensive. But above all else, Curtis was a mentor to innumerable coworkers, employees, and young biologists through the years. His zeal for waterfowl and drive for conservation are overshadowed only by his genuine compassion for and interest in other people.”

After retiring from DU in 2013, Dr. Hopkins accepted the role of Executive Secretary for SEAFWA, where he continues to serve waterfowl and wildlife resource conservation across the Southeast.

The NAWMP is implemented through long-term partnerships of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals committed to the conservation of North American waterfowl, other wetland-associated migratory bird populations, and their wetland habitats. The success of the Plan is directly related to the contributions of these dedicated partners, both short- and long-term.

The National Blue-Winged Teal Award is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the NAWMP objectives. This award is presented annually by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan Committee on behalf of NAWMP partners.