Chief Conservation Officer

Memphis, TN, United States 🇺🇸

Ducks Unlimited, Inc., is recruiting an innovative, forward-looking individual to serve as Chief Conservation Officer (CCO).

Ducks Unlimited’s conservation programs have always had a strong biological foundation. That science and research tradition continues today with hundreds of studies to address the habitat needs of waterfowl. Although a great deal of work has been done and many important questions answered, there is still much to learn about how the birds respond to landscape, habitat and environmental changes. DU has embraced an approach of constant monitoring and evaluation which allows for continual refinement of its habitat programs. In the end, such an approach ensures that each and every dollar invested in conservation programs is used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Reporting to the CEO, the CCO will serve as a strategic leader and member of DU’s executive leadership team. As one of the leaders of this mission-driven organization, the CCO will possess an authentic conservation ethic. This person will embrace DU’s belief in the hunter-conservationist model and an overriding commitment that habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife helps to mitigate flooding and improve the quantity and quality of water for wildlife and people alike.

DU’s core values have stood the test of time. The CCO will need to embrace DU’s core values, which serve to unite and inspire volunteers, staff and supporters around DU’s mission. In light of these core values, the CCO must:

  • Serve as an effective leader in conserving wetlands and other habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
  • Advise the CEO and Executive Team on how to position the DU conservation program, through innovation and forward thinking, for changes that are likely coming over the next ten years.
  • Collaborate with partners who share a common bond with DU’s goals and values.
  • Stand committed to science-based research and analysis in program development, delivery and evaluation.
  • Hold the organization to a high ethical standard.
  • Respect the power of the dedicated volunteer and appreciate the advantages of a dynamic volunteer-staff partnership in the execution of DU’s mission.
  • Support a personal connection between people and wildlife that helps to strengthen the conservation foundation of our nation. 

The CCO serves in a leadership role which speaks to the heart of DU and its dedicated members. This individual represents a powerful commitment to the vision of “wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.”  

The CCO oversees a national/regional department that has approximately 215 employees of which 10 are currently direct reports. The annual Conservation Program operating budget is approximately $110 million. 

As CCO, the individual will have oversight for strategic planning, plan implementation, conservation facilities, significant capital items, and programs that seek to protect, restore, and manage lands. The CCO is the primary liaison with the volunteer Conservation Programs Committee and oversees operations on land acquisition and disposition, including the Land Review Committee. This position works directly with Ducks Unlimited Canada and Ducks Unlimited de Mexico on conservation and fund-raising matters. The CCO reviews a wide range of other aspects of DU strategic and operational planning and execution at the request of the CEO. The CCO serves as the primary conservation spokesperson for DU and is expected to serve on numerous national boards, councils, and other groups that affect DU’s mission. The position relates directly to numerous state and federal agencies and NGO’s associated with conservation.  

The CCO will engage in substantial fundraising from both public and private sources, including funds for U.S., Mexican, Canadian, and Latin American operations. Budget responsibilities are for a multi-million-dollar program of operations and include revenue generation through major gifts and other public and private sources.

Based on the current DU Strategic Plan, the broad strategic goals and objectives for the CCO are the following:

  • Lead efforts to protect or restore at least 2 million acres by 2024 through direct conservation delivery in the highest priority landscapes in the United States.
  • Working with Ducks Unlimited Canada and Ducks Unlimited de Mexico, continue to increase collaborative efforts to generate critical support and deliver waterfowl habitat conservation in key landscapes across North America.
  • Help develop and implement a comprehensive organizational strategy and value proposition for elevating DU’s focus on water-based habitat conservation.
  • Lead efforts to focus DU’s resources to use wetland conservation as a component of water resource solutions while conserving critical waterfowl habitat.
  • Continue to strengthen private and public partnerships that protect, restore and manage waterfowl habitats in DU’s landscape priority areas.
  • Work with key partners to provide a foundation for market-based conservation, including ecosystem services such as increased water quality, water management, and habitat mitigation.
  • Work closely with DU’s fundraising and membership management program to augment DU’s revenue producing activities and volunteer engagement.
  • Identify and implement necessary efforts to strengthen DU’s science capacity to ensure that the organization remains a leader in wetland, waterfowl and water-based conservation.  

Professional Qualifications and Personal Attributes
The ideal professional qualifications and personal attributes the CCO should possess are the following:

Professional Experience:

  • Substantial experience (15+ years) and advanced training (M.S. / equivalent or greater) in a particular area of conservation. 
  • Demonstrated organizational and leadership skills of teamwork, partnership and collaboration.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to empower, inspire and motivate staff and volunteers.
  • Demonstrated collaborative, decision-making capabilities, and the ability to work with a broad diversity of partners.
  • Knowledge of wetlands and waterfowl conservation.  

Personal Attributes:

  • A commitment to DU’s mission and a demonstrated conservation ethic.
  • Highly adaptive and able to work well in high stress situations.
  • Stature and confidence to gain the credibility, respect and buy-in for a wide range of audiences and stakeholders.
  • Strong work ethic and willingness to travel extensively, often for weekend and evening meetings.

Compensation for the Chief Conservation Officer includes a competitive salary, relocation and an excellent package of health and other employee benefits.

How to apply
Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and resume responding specifically to the experience and qualifications being sought to: Daniel Sherman, President, Explore Company at [email protected] Refer to DU/CCO in the subject line. No phone inquiries please.
All correspondence will remain confidential.