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Duck, duck, goose: restored wetlands are gift to nature

Susan Simpson

As the sun rises at McPherson Valley Wetlands, nature comes to life.

Ducks, geese and other birds emerge from the marsh, taking flight into a golden sky, while insects rustle and prairie grass whistle in the wind.

The cacophony of honks, quacks, chirps and splashes are music to Jason Black’s ears. As public land manager of the wetland, they are proof that this habitat will thrive.

“This is a special place,” said Black. “I get to watch it grow through the seasons, watch the birds come and go. Everything from our state bird the meadowlark, to whooping crane to a number of species of ducks and geese and shorebirds when water conditions and migration are lined up just right.”

These public wetlands in central Kansas recently were improved through a public-private partnership. Support from Williams allowed Ducks Unlimited to seek matching funds to restore several areas that are critical to waterfowl during spring and fall migrations.

Williams’ $50,000 donation was paired with a North American Wetland Conservation Act grant and funding from the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, resulting in $200,000 to fund this project.

“Without partnerships like this, where we take private dollars, leverage them with federal and state funding and work with the landowning agency, Ducks Unlimited would be unable to meet our conservation mission,” said Matt Hough, the organization’s biologist for Kansas.

The Shirk Marsh Project at the wetlands included the restoration of approximately 160 acres of a previously drained and cropped agricultural field. New water-control infrastructure was installed and prairie seeds planted to improve wildlife habitat for quail, pheasants and other grassland birds, along with pollinators.

Bob Locke, director of development for Ducks Unlimited, said Shirk Marsh is the first of a series of connected wetlands in the complex and will help improve water downstream. Williams’ contribution also will enhance nearly 200 acres at McPherson Wildlife Area on Chain of Lakes and Big Basin Pool 7.

The McPherson Valley Wetlands, just miles from our Conway operations, provides critical resources for migrating waterfowl and other birds along the Central Flyway, along with outdoor recreation for residents and visitors.

“We take great pride in being responsible environmental stewards and are honored to support Ducks Unlimited,” said Matthew Baker, manager of engineering at Williams. “Doing what is right for our local communities is part of who we are at Williams, and this collaboration is one of the many ways we aim to preserve resources for future generations while making a positive impact today.”