Dont Drain America Dry - Support Wetlands for Wildlife

Who's Looking out for our American Ducks? In the 1950's & '60's it seemed like hardly anyone.


In 1960, a group of Wisconsin sportsman, fighting mad about U.S. wetlands drainage and the lack of a national citizen’s movement to stop it, formed an organization known as “Wetlands for Wildlife”.  

At that time Ducks Unlimited committed it’s conservation work entirely in Canada.  Wetlands for Wildlife not intending to detract from DU's important efforts in any way, would focus on ducks and the wetlands crisis in America.   

Wetlands for Wildlife money would be spent solely to acquire and preserve the wetlands of the United States.

Time to Fill the Gap Between Good Intentions and Slow Action

The founders of Wetlands for Wildlife believed their was a need for immediate action by a strong, private, non-profit, minimum overhead organization that could ignore red tape and buy or lease critical wetlands before they could be drained or spoiled.

Acquired wetlands would be transferred to state or federal agencies to maintain, manage and hold in public trust, making them forever available to all.

Founding Wisconsin Sportsman - October 12, 1960

Founding members included:


Ben L. Boalt of Cedarburg  (past WFW president),  a successful industrialist, a passionate advocate for wetlands protection, prominent golden retriever breeder & kennel owner, active in the National Retriever Trials Association serving as secretary treasurer and chairman of field trials committee.  

William Frankfurth of Wauwatosa  (past WFW president) , president and chairman of Frankfurth Hardware Company, one of the largest hardware wholesalers in the midwest serving more than 1,200 hardware stores, a company that began at the time of the civil war in 1861 and operated in Milwaukee for more than 100 years.  

Owen J. Gromme of Milwaukee  (past WFW president), often referred to as the Dean of American Wildlife Artists, a tireless & outspoken advocate for conservation, worked at the Milwaukee Public Museum as taxidermist, collector, photographer, movie editor, background painter, botanist, geologist, sculptor, and finally curator of birds and mammals. Winner of the Federal Duck Stamp competition in 1945 with his northern shovelers entry, in 1963 completed to world acclaim a volume of scientific paintings called Birds of Wisconsin.   

Arthur Molstad of Milwaukee (past WFW president), , past Chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Commission, active in conservation and sportsman organizations. 


Richard C. Bonner of Grafton, an attorney and strong advocate for conservation concerns. 



The U.S. Forest Service has their iconic Smokey the Bear (1944) and Woodsy Owl (1970), the National Wildlife Federation has their friendly raccoon character Ranger Rick (1959) and in 1961 Wetlands for Wildlife introduced THIRSTY the Duck.  

THIRSTY, is a model of a puzzled and thoroughly disgusted drake mallard wearing a sun helmet and a canteen, standing on a patch of sun-cracked mud.  Dedicated to resource conservation, THIRSTY is a natural for leading a campaign to protect our country’s fast vanishing wetlands.


Horicon Marsh, Chapter #1 of Wetlands For Wildlife

The Origins of THIRSTY

THIRSTY The Duck first met the public at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1961. Introduced as the official representative of all his wildlife friends in the outdoor world, THIRSTY was the new symbol of WETLANDS FOR WILDLIFE, Inc (WFW). Working with the Horicon Marsh Chapter of WFW, the image of THIRSTY was created by Mr. Jim Bell, district game manager for the Wisconsin Conservation Commission (now the WI DNR).   

Through the sincere and unselfish efforts of the leadership of WFW, in particular Gene Mauch and George Dejanovich of Mayville Metal Products the character of THIRSTY rose from the printed page to be a promoted symbol of WFW and a national champion of wetlands conservation.  

Mayville Metal Products involvement was integral and critical throughout the existence of WFW. While WFW headquarters were located in Milwaukee, as each acting president's term ended the headquarters location often moved as administration activity was often taken on by a small, mostly volunteer staff associated with the new president's regular business activity. 

Mauch & Dejanovich often carried the continuity of the organizations activity during periods of leadership transition, because of their dedication and professionalism their management and execution of day to day operations often extend beyond periods of leadership change. 


THIRSTY The Duck, coin collector, bank

THIRSTY The Duck - Coin Collectors

"Pennies For Puddles", 1960's Fundraising Campaign

THIRSTY The Duck, the fundraising standard bearer for WFW is now ready to migrate to Conservation Clubs, Sports Clubs, Civic Groups and Youth Organizations of America.

THIRSTY is looking for work wherever people gather; in club rooms, restaurants, bars, grills, factories and hotels. He is easily recognized, garbed in his natural mallard colors, this canteen carrying, hat wearing coin collector stands out in any company.

THIRSTY is a Mallard with a Mission - he is out to collect contributions of small change - pennies, nickels or dimes from Americans now enjoying our great outdoors.  He knows that as little as a nickel a month from each of us will provide all the funds needed to purchase wetlands necessary for the survival of our wildlife creatures - the feathered, furred and the finned.

Owen Gromme, Before Freeze Up, Wetlands for Wildlife

Owen J. Gromme - Print to Benefit Wetlands For WildLife

Press Release July, 15, 1963 - WETLANDS FOR WILDLIFE, INC


Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter

Dear Sir:

Owen J. Gromme, native son of Fond du Lac, and the charter member and director of Wetlands for Wildlife, a national organization dedicated to the preservation of wetlands for wildlife has made available to the public, through the courtesy of Jack Puelicher, president of thee Marshall &Ilsley Bank of Milwaukee, a full color reproduction of his painting, "Canvasbacks Before Freeze-up".

We are sure that many of Owen's friends in Fond du Lac would be very interested in securing a copy of this excellent first edition reproduction which Owen has personally supervised to meet his exacting specifications.  This picture, incidentally, is the first reproduction of any of Owen Gromme's paintings that have been made available to the public.

All proceeds from the sale of this picture, which is sold for $5.00, are to be used by Wetlands for Wildlife, Inc. for the purpose of preserving wetlands for wildlife.  The picture is available at the Wetlands for Wildlife national office at 3500 No. Holton Street, Milwaukee 12.

You may wish to consider a brief comment in your paper concerning the availability of this painting because it has received a great deal of interest, particularly in this area and it has not as yet been distributed on a national basis.

If there is ay further information you wish about either Mr. Gromme or the painting, please drop us a note.


Eric Kuusinen, Secretary

Wetlands for Wildlife, Inc