Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation

Conservation that connects

Looking beyond the expected to ensure a thriving natural world


How ‘Wings Over Water’ took flight

In 2016, the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation began an unprecedented review of the funds sent to Canada’s prairies under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act in hopes of identifying potential improvements to the system, ensuring that it could be held up as a model of effective conservation and efficient government spending. The project team included distinguished conservationists from across the nation, including former leaders of state natural resource agencies or branches of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, scientists, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, and other experts in communications.

After more than two years of research, the team reached an astonishing conclusion: if anything, the significant accomplishments of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act in prairie Canada had been underreported. Its success story could and should have been better told.

At the same time, those wetlands that had not been protected were dwindling, particularly the temporary and seasonal wetlands that are most important to the continent’s birds. Aside from a cadre of concerned waterfowl hunters and other bird enthusiasts, few knew of the looming catastrophe.

During a summit of the nation’s leading waterfowl conservationists, McGraw presented the team’s findings as well as a recommendation that the assembled group drive a communications campaign to increase public awareness of the prairie wetlands and their importance to the world. Hunters all, the members of the group realized that many other people would join them in striving to protect wetlands, if only they knew of their significance.

This realization inspired the partnership that created the IMAX 3D film “Wings Over Water.” For more than two years, an award-winning team of filmmakers and a support group made up of many of the continent’s most important conservation organizations worked together to create this remarkable story, aimed at capturing the majestic migrations of birds and the wonder of life on the birds’ ancestral breeding grounds, and the need to save this precious ecosystem.