Ducks Unlimited’s new president and Northern California native Paul Bonderson was profiled over the weekend in the Sacramento Bee, in case you missed it. The article touched on Bonderson’s beginnings, not only with Ducks Unlimited, but in Silicon Valley.
The project is inspired by Bonderson’s love of California’s wild spaces – bred into him on fishing and hunting trips with his “Pappy” and his Dad. If Bonderson’s name sounds familiar, it may be that you recall his father, Paul R. Bonderson, who has a state building named for him at 901 P St. in downtown Sacramento.
The senior Bonderson, a civil engineer, pushed the state Legislature to recognize that Californians needed to be concerned not only about water pollution but about water quality. His pioneering work led to a change of mission and ultimately a change of name for the state agency charged with it. It became the State Water Resources Control Board.
Bonderson said that his father cast a shadow so long that he decided not to pursue the career of civil engineer: “I did not want to follow in my Dad’s footsteps. I could never achieve what he achieved.”
Instead, Bonderson earned an electrical engineering degree from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He started out working for Intel when its revenue stood at just $100 million a year and rode it like a rocket ship until it was grossing $10 billion a year. He then took a posting at Sun Microsystems when it just broke $100 million in revenue and remained with the company until it, too, crashed the $10 billion mark.
Paul’s work with DU is well chronicled by Cathie Anderson, including insight into his weekly duties.
He started getting involved with Ducks Unlimited in 2001 and slowly made the transition from full-time technologist to full-time conservationist. He has booked practically every weekend through February with trips related to the organization’s mission, whether it’s attending a state convention or wooing well-heeled donors and decision-makers or going to board meetings for Ducks Unlimited and its associated organizations.
He pays for all his own travel, lodging and meals, as do all other board members and volunteers of the group. The organization puts 82 cents of every dollar it raises back into wetlands development, he said.
Mark Biddlecomb, the Western region director for Ducks Unlimited, said he likes the fact that Bonderson walks the talk. At Birdhaven Ranch in Butte County, Bonderson has moved tule bulrushes, dense on his neighbor’s slough, onto his property. He’s hired contractors with 90-foot spades to dig up and reposition willow trees, and he’s planted and grown thousands of others as twigs in 15-gallon pots because they’ll take more easily when he transplants them.
Already, Bonderson said, the property has become a home and way station for countless species of birds. One year, he said, they hatched 2,614 wood ducks from the 200 boxes on his property. It makes it a “duck hunter’s Disneyland,” he said, but there also spaces on the property that are sanctuaries, and birds tend to know that.