A duck stamp for every hunter and every birder


At $15, a “Duck Stamp” is arguably the best investment a conservationist can make. More formally called the “Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp,” the Duck Stamp was created in 1934. Hunters lobbied for this “tax” on themselves to ensure that waterfowl would forever fill the skies.

A supplement to a state hunting license, a duck stamp is a federal license to hunt migratory waterfowl.
Managing wetlands. Ninety-eight cents of every duck stamp dollar goes to the National Wildlife Refuge System to buy or lease wetland habitat. That’s $14.70 from every stamp that goes directly to conservation. Since 1934, duck stamps have raised more than $800 million to protect and manage more than six million acres of wetlands.

And what’s good for ducks and geese is also good for common yellowthroats, marsh wrens, great blue herons, frogs, turtles, snakes, beaver, muskrats, mink, and myriad fish, butterflies, dragonflies, and other invertebrates. In fact, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that one-third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species are found on National Wildlife Refuges.

Wetland conservation

Though ducks hunters are required to buy a duck stamp every year, every birder, wildlife watcher, hiker, and nature photographer should buy one voluntarily to support wetland conservation. Duck stamps also act as a pass into refuges that charge an admission fee. Visit two or three refuges during a year, and the stamp pays for itself. And each duck stamp is a miniature work of collectable art.

Wetland benefits

Furthermore, wetlands provide much more than wildlife habitat. Wetlands purify water supplies, store flood waters, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, and provide spawning area for many fish.

Duck stamp purchase

The 2013-2014 duck stamp features a beautiful male common goldeneye. It can be purchased at larger post offices, some outdoors stores, or online at www.duckstamp.com.

Junior Duck Stamps

Junior Duck Stamps ($5) can also be purchased at these locations. Proceeds from Junior Duck Stamps support conservation education programs, so they’re great for students, parents, and educators, as well as hunters and birders.
To see images of all the ducks stamps dating back to 1934, visit http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/federal/stamps/fedimages.htm.
But not everyone loves the duck stamp concept. One such group is promoting the creation of a new stamp – a “Wildlife Conservation Stamp.”

Wildlife stamp

To quote the group’s web site, WildlifeConservationStamp.org is a collaborative effort to promote a new wildlife stamp and funding stream for our National Wildlife Refuges. We are birders, photographers, conservationists, wildlife rehabilitators, scientists, teachers and artists … joined by a common passion and concern for our nation’s wildlife and wild habitats.


“We propose the “http://www.wildlifeconservationstamp.org/” Wildlife Conservation Stamp to provide a consistent source of income for our Refuges, separate but parallel to the current Federal Duck Stamp program. The Wildlife Conservation Stamp would raise fees from the millions of non-consumptive users, wildlife viewers and conservationists …”

Sounds just like a duck stamp, except the new stamp ignores hunters. One comment on the web site articulates this bias thusly:

“I never did buy Duck Stamps because I felt it misrepresented my interests and goals for the use of the funds. This would be a great idea, especially if it were targeted and directed to strictly non-extractive nature pursuits…
“But, would it still be supporting hunter’s interests with these funds? That is why I don’t buy the Duck Stamp. Would this just be a Duck Stamp with another name, or would the funds actually go towards conservation of wildlife, habitat, and non-extractive enjoyment of nature? What would the difference be?”

All species

Unfortunately, the ignorance illustrated by the above comment is appallingly common. Such comments fail to understand that most species that thrive on refuges are not hunted. Duck stamp dollars support all species, not just hunted waterfowl.

Failed before

Furthermore, a conservation stamp has been tried before. It was just one of many ideas floated to fund the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980, which was intended to support and manage nongame species. Birders and other watchers never rallied around previous suggestions for a conservation stamp. And manufacturers and retailers of outdoor-related products opposed new taxes on their products to support wildlife conservation. But for $15, anyone can be a conservationist. Just buy a Duck Stamp.


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Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. He can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh, or live online anywhere at www.khbradio.com, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.



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