Given the polarization in Washington, DC these days, it's easy to lose hope our elected leaders can ever come to grips with an issue, act on it and get it to pass muster in the three branches of government. This isn’t a political column. This isn’t a wholesale endorsement of the congress, the executive branch or the judicial reviewers. It is a simple kudo to the politicians who were able to avoid making a political football out of bipartisan legislation aimed at raising the price of the Federal Duck Stamp.
The Federal Duck Stamp program is one of the most successful conservation initiatives in history. Since the program's creation in 1934, funding from duck stamp sales has been used to acquire and permanently protect more than 6 million acres of vital National Wildlife Refuge System habitat. Much of this wetland and grassland acreage - supporting hundreds of native species of migratory birds, animals and plants - would otherwise have been plowed, drained or paved.
Over time, rising land prices steadily eroded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to protect vulnerable habitat through acquisitions and the purchase of conservation easements on private land. Raising the price of the stamp from $15 to $25 will restore most of the purchasing power lost since the price was last increased in 1991. The additional funds generated by the increase will enable the USFWS to protect an estimated 17,000 additional acres of habitat every year.
All hunters pursuing migratory waterfowl aged 16 years and older are required to possess a valid stamp, but anyone who cares about conservation can buy one. Many non-hunters do. They are available at most post offices, many sporting goods stores and on-line.
Lands acquired and protected with Duck Stamp dollars are accessible to everyone - not just for hunting, but for wildlife watching, photography and other outdoor recreation. A valid Duck Stamp can also be used for free admission to scores of National Wildlife Refuges that charge admission fees.
Duck Stamps benefit Americans of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of where they live. Wetlands and associated uplands are as important for people as they are for wildlife. They provide natural protection against flooding and storm surges, filter pollutants from water used by millions of Americans for drinking, cooking and sanitation and support thousands of jobs and local businesses linked to outdoor recreation and tourism.
As much as anything, the Duck Stamp price increase represents an emphatic expression of optimism for the future. After all, the stamp itself was born out of far more desperate circumstances.
More than 80 years ago, at the height of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, our nation's waterfowl and other migratory birds faced devastation. Yet in the midst of ecological collapse, widespread poverty and unemployment, American waterfowl hunters refused to give up. Their support played an instrumental part in the passage of the Duck Stamp Act of 1934.
It was a tough sell. There were no national hunting and conservation groups with paid lobbyists in Washington, no network among sportsmen urging congressional support. It was truly a grassroots effort that solidified the American model of wildlife management and inspired more.
The success of the Duck Stamp initiative inspired passage of the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, which created an excise tax on firearms and ammunition (later expanded to fishing rods, reels and equipment) that has raised more than $14 billion to support conservation at the state level. Most important, these historic conservation achievements laid the foundation for the return of healthy wildlife populations and habitat across the nation.
Once again, America's hunters deserve the thanks. Hunting groups led efforts to raise the price of the stamp. Hunter dominated organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever and others mobilized their members in support and convinced hunters across the nation to contact members of Congress to urge passage.
America’s wildfowl and wildlife in general will continue to face enormous conservation challenges in the coming decades. Increased funding through the duck stamp program is a big step in meeting these challenges.
Where to Buy Duck Stamps: 1. U.S. Postal Service www.usps.com 1-800-STAMP24 1-800-782-6724 Local Post Offices (call first to ensure they sell the stamps) usps.whitepages.com
Amplex Corporation www.duckstamp.com 1-800-852-4897
Sporting good and equipment retailers: including BassPro Shops, Cabela’s, WalMart and Kmart
National Wildlife Refuges
call first to ensure they sell the stamps www.fws.gov/Refuges
Buy from any participating state Find a list at: http://www.fws.gov/birds/ get-involved/duck-stamp/e-stamp.php