LUMBERTON — Ducks in Robeson County have a safe place to lay their eggs thanks to a few blocks of wood and some caring kids.
Members of the Lumber River chapter of Wildlife Action, a nonprofit that aims to educate young people about the importance of preserving natural resources and protecting wildlife, recently created nine duck boxes.
“We put them around wetlands, where ducks can use them as their homes,” said Alvin Pittman, the group’s secretary. ” … They were from trees that were cut down and were raw, not something that has been massed produced somewhere.”
The 20-inch tall Cyprus boxes help the group realize its goal “to put back more than we take.”
“We are a conservation group wanting to protect our habitat and the environment for wild animals to have a safe place,” Pittman said. “Like, if you cut a tree down, plant two more.”
The year-old chapter has 50 members,s ranging from youth to adult. Along with the duck boxes project, they have participated in the Lumber River Big Sweep, archery, fishing, and deer and turkey hunting.
“Sometimes things move at such a rapid pace, we don’t realize the loss we have incurred until after the fact,” said Jimmy Flowers, the senior vice president of hunting for the group and the director of membership on the national board. “Now they’re finding that in a lot of areas that are being developed. … We haven’t found out what types of things we are eradicating by trying to make progress on the development side.”
The group’s projects focus on their Five Point Laws, which are preservation, conservation, education, sportsmanship and fellowship.
Flowers said he hopes to instill these values in his kids, 6-year-old Victoria and 10-year-old Jesse, who are also in the group.
“It’s so we can relay what we have learned in our lifetime to our youth so they can carry on the legacy,” Flowers said. “Whether it’s canoeing or camping or cleaning up the river … or even just mentoring a person who has never been hunting.”
While the local chapter’s roots are just beginning to take hold, the national organization of Wildlife Action has been around since 1977. It began in Mullins, S.C., as a simple duck box project by M. Gault Beeson Jr. and six of his friends. Since then, the organization has built and placed more than 10,000 duck boxes, 4,000 bluebird boxes and 1,000 squirrel boxes.
“As far as education, sometimes we’ll bring out different people,” Pittman said. “We’ll bring the state’s wildlife officers from Lumber River State Park, or USDA to come out and talk to people and show the kids what’s going on with their department.”
Keith Copeland, the president of the local club, decided to start a chapter after meeting a future hunter at Walmart.
“There was a little boy and his mother and he was looking for a shotgun, but he was looking at muzzleloaders,” he said. “I told him those aren’t shotguns and his mother said she didn’t know anything about guns. She hadn’t ever hunted, and he hadn’t ever hunted but he wanted to …. She told me his father had left when he was a baby and he doesn’t have anything to do with him. I just took it from there and I thought I could probably help with something like that.”
While people can attend meetings for free, a membership fee of $30 for individuals and $40 for a family annually helps fund the activities of the group.
“We take that money and we turn around and do activities with the children,” Copeland said. “If they don’t have a membership, they can still come.”
The local chapter meets monthly at the East Lumberton Resource Center, located at 1609 E. Second St. in Lumberton. The next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. on April 25.
Copeland said the group will be participating in Relay for Life, as well as doing a pork sale as a fundraiser in late August.
“We are trying to do a lot of things with underprivileged kids and handicapped kids and kids that might not have a father figure in the house,” Copeland said. “We’re trying to get them out and teach them about conservation and fellowship and sportsmanship.”
The group will also be participating in a fishing rodeo in Whiteville on May 14 and a skeet shoot on May 21.
Pittman hopes to start a school-based Wildlife Action club at J.C. Hargrave Elementary School.
“Children are the key to survival of this Earth,” Pittman said. “… We’re trying to connect with kids to let them know there is more to our vast world than sitting inside playing a video game. Come out and enjoy.”