The 2013-2014 Federal Duck Stamp is on sale now. Officially known as the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, “Duck Stamps” (as they are most commonly called) are a vital tool for wetland and upland conservation.
Originally created in 1934, Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Nearly $700 million has been raised for habitat conservation by the nationwide sales of Federal Duck Stamps.
In additional to large National Wildlife Refuges, Duck Stamps are the primary funding source for the purchase of smaller natural wetlands and uplands, known as Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs). There are over 26,000 WPAs in the U.S. located mostly in the Prairie Pothole Regions – also known as “Pheasant Country” – of the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. North Dakota alone accounts for 39 percent of WPAs in the U.S. Wetlands on these WPAs, particularly the cattails that encircle them, provide excellent winter cover for pheasants, and the grassland habitat that surrounds WPA wetlands can provide nesting and brood cover for ringnecks. That pheasant production can mean excellent pheasant hunting opportunities, as WPAs are open to public hunting.
While ducks migrate and pheasants do not, the two fowl have related habitat needs that are simultaneously addressed with Duck Stamp habitat protection. Like pheasants, a duck’s life journey begins in a grassland. “Duck Stamp dollars spent in the Prairie Pothole Region address the most critical time for both ducks and pheasants, the nesting season. And good nesting cover for ducks is good nesting cover for pheasants,” says Matt Morlock, a Pheasants Forever Field Team Data Analyst in eastern South Dakota.
Pheasants Forever also supported a recent expansion of hunting opportunities on 10 National Wildlife Refuges, a list which included five refuges funded in part by Federal Duck Stamps. “There’s no question we’ve seen a decline in hunting numbers,” said Dave Nomsen, Vice President of Governmental Affairs for Pheasants Forever. “And we need to get kids outdoors and connected with nature. Hunting can play a role in that effort and it should. The refuge system is a great opportunity.”
Federal Duck Stamps can be purchased at U.S. Postal Service locations nationwide (as well as through the Postal Service’s online catalogue), sporting goods stores and online at online at www.duckstamp.com.
This year’s Federal Duck Stamp image of a common goldeneye is by Californian Robert Steiner. Hunters over the age of 16 must purchase one if they want to hunt migratory waterfowl (which nearly half of Pheasants Forever members already do), but even if you don’t hunt ducks or geese, consider purchasing a stamp (or two – you can purchase as many as you like). Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best conservation investments you can make.