Informed management of waterfowl (or any animal population), requires management goals and objectives, the ability to implement management actions, periodic information about population and goal related variables, and knowledge of effects of management actions on populations and goal related variables. In North American international Treaties mandate a primary objective of protecting migratory bird populations, with a secondary objective of providing hunting opportunity in a manner compatible with such protection. Through the years annual establishment of hunting regulations and acquisition and management of habitat have been the primary management actions taken by federal agencies. Various information-gathering programs were established and, by the 1960's had developed into arguably the best monitoring system in the world for continentally distributed animal populations. Retrospective analyses using estimates from this monitoring system have been used to investigate effects of management actions on waterfowl populations and harvest dynamics, but key relationships are still characterized by uncertainty. We recommend actively adaptive harvest management as an approach that can meet short term harvest objectives, while reducing uncertainty and ensuring sustainable populations over the long term.