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Dennis Hopping works to preserve Island wetlands

Difference Engines
by Nina Linton

Dennis Hopping in his front yard, the wetland area he built to attract ducks to his property (photo: Nina Linton)Dennis Hopping knows what it is like to live a bird’s life. For close to four decades the retired military pilot with a fondness for flight shared the skies with feathered fowl, getting a peek at elevated avian existence while gliding high on streams of air.

From the air Hopping experienced the world in a way that very few others do, spying down on the patchwork plots, each piece connecting to another in an integral web teeming with life.

The veteran flyer vowed to do what he could to ensure a sustainable future for the province’s natural areas. “You couldn’t believe how beautiful this Island is from a relatively low flying helicopter,” says Hopping. “All the beautiful colours, it just pulls your heart strings to say, ‘Gosh, we better preserve this and have it for future generations.’”

An avid waterfowler since youth, Hopping credits his father with instilling in him the need for conservation, a lesson he still carries with him today through his volunteer work for Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC).

The Kensington area man, a founding member of the Prince County chapter of DUC, has for the past 27 years been involved in efforts to protect and preserve the often overlooked wetland areas and their resident wildfowl. As former Commander of the Canadian Forces Base in Summerside, Hopping even brought that message home with him, building one of the two ponds on his property in his front yard in hopes of attracting ducks to nest in his safeguarded area.

“I am not a tree hugger but I am passionate about what we do, why we do it and for the reasons that we do it,” states Hopping. “It is to protect and enhance the environment and the wetlands for our fine feathered friends. That is important to me, it is not to everybody but it sure is to me.”

Recognizing the significant role this crucial yet sensitive habitat has in our Island’s ecosystem, Hopping works to educate others while also lending a hand to help aid wetlands wherever possible, whether that be banding ducks for the purpose of determining their flyways, rebuilding washed out dams, removing rubbish from rivers or fundraising for the continuation of the above programs.

The Prince County DUC chapter first met in 1983 with six original members. To raise money in support of wetland restoration they organized an annual fundraising banquet, which, now in its 26th year, has raised approximately half a million dollars.

Calling his volunteer work to keep wildlife and wetlands intact a purpose in life, Hopping aims to spread the word of the fragile environments that often need a little help from humans. Hopping prefers to work at this grass roots level, finding it satisfying to know he is one of 7,400 other volunteers that work to protect wetlands across the country with DUC each year. “Often our work goes unnoticed except by the ducks,” he reveals. “It is just self gratification when you see the results of the little input that you had and you know there is a lot of it going on in Canada. That is a great feeling.”

The 26th annual Prince County DUC Banquet and Silent Auction will be held Saturday May 1, 2010 at the Summerside Legion starting at 6 pm with proceeds going to wetland conservation projects.

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