Durand Farms owners Jeff, Greg and C.J. Durand of St. Martinville were given Ducks Unlimited's Private Citizen Award last week during the 76th Annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Kansas City, Mo.

The award was part of DU's 2011 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards.

"These individuals have each had a tremendous impact on North America's waterfowl habitat," DU CEO Dale Hall said. "DU proudly recognizes their contributions, and hopes their personal achievements inspire others to engage in conservation."

DU's Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the restoration and conservation of North America's wetlands and waterfowl. The awards are presented in six categories.

"We are honored to be recognized by the world leader in wetlands conservation," Jeff Durand said. "There's no reason not to practice conservation-minded rice and crawfish production. It makes business sense, and it makes sense to take care of the natural resources we all depend on for our livelihoods, our recreation and our health."

The Durands are first-generation rice producers committed to pursuing excellence in farming, marketing and conservation. As certified master farmers through Louisiana State University's Master Farmer Program, the Durands are active conservationists who use best practices to improve water quality, decrease soil erosion and reduce nitrogen inputs on their 1,150-acre rice and crawfish farm in St. Martin Parish.

"The commitment Jeff, Greg and C.J. show to rice farming and to conservation is a great example of rice farmers recognizing the benefits of conservation practices," said DU regional biologist Alicia Wiseman, who nominated the Durands for the award. "Riceland is very important to wintering waterfowl in Louisiana, and the Durands' commitment to environmentally sound farming practices helps ensure this area will continue to provide valuable habitat to wintering waterfowl."

The Durands recently participated in the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative partnership with Ducks Unlimited and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, enrolling more than 250 acres in the program and providing shallow-water habitat for wintering waterfowl, water birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife. Durand Farms conservation efforts were also recognized by the USA Rice Federation as the recipient of the Rice Farmer of the Year Award at the 2010 USA Rice Outlook Conference.