During Ducks Unlimited’s annual convention last week, the organization’s leaders proudly welcomed 30-year volunteer, George Dunklin Jr., of Humphrey, Ark., as DU’s 42nd president. Dunklin succeeds John Newman, who now serves as chairman of the board.
“I am honored and humbled beyond words to become president of Ducks Unlimited,” Dunklin told convention attendees gathered in Portland, Ore. “So many great leaders helped bring me to this place in my conservation career, and I am determined to make them proud during my presidency. And far beyond that, I am committed to continuing to grow and shape this great organization, strengthen our bonds as Team DU and reach or exceed all our goals over the next two years.”
Dunklin’s plans for his presidency include ensuring the ongoing success of DU’s fundraising event system, building on the more than 13 million acres of habitat conservation work, growing DU’s youth and education program to recruit and train tomorrow’s conservationists and working to meet the objectives laid out in the organization’s national business plan.
“Bringing up our next generation with a deep appreciation for waterfowl and habitat is essential to ensuring a strong future not only for Ducks Unlimited but also for the health of our entire continent,” Dunklin said. “My wife, Livia, and I made sure we passed on our dedication to conservation to our three daughters – Megan, Hillary and Lauren – who are all Legacy Greenwing DU members. I encourage everyone to do the same for their children and grandchildren starting today.”
Dunklin’s father planted these very seeds of conservation and stewardship in his son’s mind while he was growing up in Pine Bluff, Ark., duck hunting on Arkansas’ Grand Prairie. “My dad would constantly tell me that we did not own this land, but we were simply the tenants for the short time that we’re here,” Dunklin said. “It’s our responsibility to leave the land better than we found it – a philosophy that still rings true for me today.”
Dunklin carried these messages of stewardship forward into his many careers over the years. Following in the footsteps of his father and his grandfather, L.A. Black, Dunklin is a well-known, third-generation Arkansas rice farmer and a strong advocate for rice agriculture in the region.
In 1983, Dunklin purchased what is now the popular Stuttgart waterfowling destination, Five Oaks Lodge, and began shaping and managing the land for waterfowl and other wildlife. After years of habitat conservation commitment across Arkansas, through rice agriculture and his work at Five Oaks, Dunklin was appointed by Gov. Mike Huckabee to a seven-year term on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in 2005.
“George is the very model of not only a DU volunteer but the finest order of waterfowl and wetlands conservationist,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “He has made conservation his life’s work and is committed to ensuring a strong future for waterfowl across the continent. He sees the big picture and the importance of conserving not only waterfowl habitat in his home state, but critical prairie breeding grounds to the north and Gulf Coast wintering areas to the south.”
Dunklin has built a lasting legacy within the Ducks Unlimited family, beginning as a grassroots volunteer more than three decades ago. From there, he moved through the ranks to become Arkansas state chairman, an at-large member of DU’s board of directors, senior advisory vice president for conservation and finally the organization’s first vice president before becoming president this year. He is also a DU major sponsor and a member of Wetlands America Trust, the foundation arm behind Ducks Unlimited.
“When I met past DU President Herman Taylor in 1983, I’d been a DU member since I was 16, but hadn’t been a true volunteer yet. I didn’t understand what the organization was doing for us and for waterfowl,” Dunklin said. “Mr. Taylor explained to me the importance of what Ducks Unlimited was doing to support conservation and how truly crucial waterfowl and wildlife habitat was. He changed my life.”
Dunklin has reinforced his commitment to Ducks Unlimited many times throughout the years, including when he was selected in 2009 as the Budweiser Conservationist of the Year. This award allowed Dunklin to select DU to receive a $50,000 grant from Budweiser and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support a conservation project at Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area, a popular public hunting area east of Pine Bluff.
“In a modern society that wants instant gratification, DU must continue our message that the only true pleasure is one that will have positive benefits long after we’ve departed this world. I can think of no better way to accomplish this than through conservation,” Dunklin said. “It’s not just about the ducks – it’s about what each of us can do for the land, the resources, our outdoor heritage and the family and friends we share it all with.”
Image courtesy Ducks Unlimited