Every popular game animal has what is known as an NGO or non-governmental organization which supports it. One of the first was Ducks Unlimited, formed in 1937 to address the loss of waterfowl nesting areas in the upper Midwest and Canada and the inability or unwillingness of state, federal and Canadian game management agencies to adequately fund and preserve North America’s waterfowl habitat and populations.
Since then, state and federal agencies have proven to be equally inept at funding and conserving many other popular species of game prompting turkey fans, pheasant lovers, grouse hunters and others to form NGOs dedicated to their favorite species. The NGOs raise money, hire biologists and promote the welfare of their favorite game animal on their own or in partnership with government management agencies.
In several instances, more than one NGO group was formed for a particular species, for instance Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl — both with similar objectives. In other instances, groups merged to some degree. Pheasants Forever and Quail Unlimited are run by the same “parent” organization, but each group still operates somewhat independently.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit most of the wildlife NGOs quite hard, since much of their funding comes from the grassroots level by holding local and regional fundraising events throughout the year. In our area, each DU or Pheasants Forever banquet raises tens of thousands of dollars. Since the pandemic, lockdowns, government bans on group meetings and common sense have cancelled these fundraising events and the national leaders of the NGOs are scrambling to cope.
Recently, the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) and the National Deer Alliance (NDA) revealed a joint venture to unify the two organizations into what will soon become a new super-group in deer conservation. The venture will combine the strengths, resources and core initiatives of QDMA and NDA into a single, modernized outfit able to serve deer, hunters and the deer hunting industry more effectively at a time when the need is great.
Nick Pinizzotto, current President and CEO of NDA, will lead the new group. He said, “While there’s no question the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many organizations hard, we are turning the tables by using the situation, combined with the many challenges deer and hunters are facing, as an opportunity to become laser focused on delivering a mission that serves deer, hunters and industry effectively and efficiently.”
Currently, the new group doesn’t even have an “official” name. That will just be one of the agenda items, a relatively minor one, as the work to finalize the merged organizations’ structure, future plans, goals and mission before the fall 2020 hunting season. Unification will be complete by the end of the year, providing a clear direction for work heading into 2021.
The merging of NDA and QDMA makes sense. The QDMA was formed in 1988 when America’s deer herd was rapidly expanding and the goals of many DNRs was herd reduction in many areas with little thought given to hunter ethics and producing a well structured deer herd which included a real chance for hunters to see and harvest decent or impressive bucks.
Following QDMA’s North American Deer Summit at Missouri’s Big Cedar Lodge in 2014, QDMA formed NDA, as a separate NGO, to serve as the unified voice of the modern deer hunter and guardian of wild deer. Though both groups continue to achieve unique victories for all deer hunters, unification will end duplication of effort in many areas, allow for more efficient operations, and maximize effectiveness. Being similar, the missions of QDMA and NDA blend easily, leaving familiar, fundamental values in place while creating ample room for adaptation to the changed landscape of fundraising and wildlife conservation brought on by the virus crisis.
With a growing list of counterproductive wildlife policies in many states, shrinking hunter numbers, loss of habitat, the rapid spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) and other challenges, the need for a strong non-profit leader in deer conservation has never been greater. The merged QDMA/NDA provides exciting and unique opportunities to strengthen resources and improve the ability to carry out their mission.