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The South Carolina Waterfowl Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to enhance and perpetuate South Carolina’s wildlife heritage through education and habitat conservation. Donate to SCWA to fund education and habitat programs by clicking below

SCWA Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprentice Program 

Program Spotlight – David Wielicki, CEO

As an SCWA member, you can be proud of the success of SCWA’s conservation education programs that reach thousands of youth through the Camp Woodie summer camp, Camp Leopold school year camp, and the Heritage Events Program. Another exciting but less known SCWA program is the Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprentice Program, North America’s number one Apprentice program designed to train the next generation of land management professionals. During the two-year program, Apprentices learn hands-on wildlife and fisheries management skills equipping them to make a large-scale impact on habitat management. 

The program is funded through $1.5 million in endowment funds and generous donors who provide annual program support. Major program donors include The Gary Dietrich Family Foundation, Interlaken Wildlife Foundation, David Belk Cannon Foundation, Andy Quattlebaum and Blackwell Family Foundation, Orton Foundation, Fredrick C. Hamilton Family Foundation, Harry and Stephanie Oxner Family Fund, Blanchard Machinery, New Holland Agriculture, Four Oaks, Black River, Chicora Wood, Dover, Friendfield, Milton Hall, Whitehouse, and Weymouth Plantations.

For 2022, 9 apprentice positions will be funded. SCWA’s long-term goal is to expand the program to 20 apprentices. There is a critical need for this program, due to a tremendous shortage of land management professionals who possess practical land management experience. This has resulted in a decrease in the overall quality of wildlife habitats on private and public lands. The days of old when a farm boy went off to college to get his wildlife management degree are long gone. The vast majority of today’s college graduates have the book knowledge but lack the practical experience to become effective land managers.

To address this need, SCWA enhanced our 20-year-old wildlife management intern program to establish the two-year Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprentice Program at our 1,237-acre Wildlife Education Center campus near Pinewood, South Carolina. The program has developed partnerships with twelve premier wildlife properties in South and North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to provide hands-on wildlife management experience for apprentices on over 67,000 acres of intensively managed wildlife habitat. 

2021 marked a milestone in program growth with the establishment of the Andy Quattlebaum Apprentice Fellowship program at Clermont Plantation near Georgetown, SC. In 2021, The David Belk Cannon Foundation also endowed two new Apprentice positions through the Warlick-Rankin-Matthews Quail and Wildlife Management Fellowship. For the coming year, Apprentices will gain additional upland wildlife management experience on the Interlaken Wildlife Foundation’s 2,500 acres of intensively managed quail, deer, and turkey habitat located near Cameron South Carolina. 

Apprentices learn all aspects of land management including waterfowl, deer, quail, turkey, dove, and fisheries habitat management.  Apprentices learn how to implement habitat management plans, farm, operate heavy equipment, conduct controlled burns, manage facilities, run hunts, manage funds, budget, food service, customer service, and a long list of practical land management skills. 

Apprentices come from a variety of educational backgrounds with Associate, Bachelor, and Master’s degrees in wildlife and natural resource management. Apprentice graduates with a natural resource associate degree are well equipped to become private land wildlife managers or wildlife technicians on state and federal lands. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree are qualified to become wildlife managers in both private and state-owned wildlife management areas. Master Degree apprentice graduates are well qualified to run National Wildlife Refuges, State WMA’s, or large private landholdings. Apprentice graduates have a 100% hiring rate and are prepared to make a long-term positive impact on wildlife habitats. 

SCWA greatly appreciates your support of the SCWA mission to enhance and perpetuate South Carolina’s wildlife heritage through education and habitat conservation. The Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprentice program is making great strides towards the success of the SCWA mission. 

For more information on the apprentice program go to the Apprentice program section on the SCWA web site (http://www.scwa.org) or contact Jonathan Patrick, SCWA Operations Manager, jonathan@scwa.org.