Wednesday, February 13, 2013

TOP STORY >> Newspaper’s outdoorsman will lead Ducks Unlimited

Leader editor

Matt Robinson of Cabot will be the next chairman of Arkansas Ducks Unlimited. He was elected to serve in 2014 during the conservation group’s state convention on Saturday in Little Rock.

“I am so excited. I’m going to work hard to make Arkansas the No. 1 fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited. I want us to continue to do well, and I’ll try hard,” Robinson said.

The 35-year-old newspaper executive, who is The Leader’s publications manager, has been a volunteer since 1999 for the largest wetlands conservation group in the world. He is the youngest-ever chairman of Arkansas Ducks Unlimited.

“We are trying to preserve our hunting heritage. I have a 12-year-old son. Without DU, who knows if he’d be able to hunt when he’s older?” Robinson said.

Volunteers like Robinson help organize numerous fundraiser dinners across the country that contribute millions of dollars that is used for protecting habitats that are vital to boosting duck populations.

“There are 88 (Ducks Unlimited) chapters in Arkansas,” he said. “There are 21 banquets in District 10 alone,” which Robinson chaired for four years. He’s well known in the area for organizing the dinners and auctions in Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood and Little Rock.

At the state convention this weekend, “I looked out and saw all these people who welcomed me into this group. And they’re going to let me lead them for two years,” he said.

He joined the group shortly after graduating from Jacksonville High School with encouragement from Phillip Carlisle of First Arkansas Bank and Trust and Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson.

“They still help me,” said Robinson, who started out selling tables at the dinners to area businesses.

Ducks Unlimited has a strong track record of spending its members’ donations on conservation projects and not on administrative expenses.

Last year, 83 cents of every dollar raised went to conservation. Only 3 percent of donations were used for administration, 16 percent on fundraising and 81 percent went to protecting waterfowl habitat. And often every dollar raised is matched six times by the federal government.

Ducks Unlimited was founded in 1937 to help restore wetlands that were badly damaged by the Dust Bowl, the ecological disaster in the ’30s caused by poor farming practices over more than a century.

“Our money is spent in North America and in the prairie potholes so that we can enjoy the winter flight of the birds here,” Robinson said.

“If it’s good for the ducks, it’s good for every living being,” he said.

“With more than one million supporters…DU has raised more than $1.5 billion and conserved nearly 11 million acres of critical wildlife habitat across North America. Wetlands are nature’s most productive ecosystems, but the United States has lost more than half of its original wetlands and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres every year,” according to its website.