After attending the Midwest Birding Symposium, it was made even more clear just how important Duck Stamps are to conservation. We were fortunate to hear a wonderful talk given by Paul Baicich about the route birders need to take to be active conservationists and support the National Wildlife Refuge System. The following are some points and ideas about how birds can benefit from Duck Stamps.
Brief History of the Duck Stamp
In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, which became known as the Duck Stamp with the signing of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act.
Each year duck hunters are required to buy a stamp in order to hunt. Duck Stamps started out costing $1.00 and have since been raised seven times to their current cost of $15.00 each. Between the 1934-35 and 2003-04 seasons, over 120.8 million stamps have been sold totaling $696,305,440 to conservation. By law, the “receipts from the sale of stamps must be deposited in the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund”.
Birders Buying Habitat
The federal Duck Stamp is currently the best asset birders have to help bird conservation. There are many great conservation organizations out there, but large chunks of your donation money is needed to cover other expenses. This is not true with the Duck Stamp. A full 98 cents for every dollar of the Duck Stamp goes to wetland and grassland land acquisitions.
Where Can You Buy Duck Stamps
There are many places you can purchase Duck Stamps but recently a few birding organizations have been selling them in a nice, hard plastic keychain.
This allows you to attach your stamp to your bin-strap, camera-strap, backpack, or other prominent area, to allow for a walking advertisement. You can also buy Duck Stamps at sporting good stores and most post offices.
Going Beyond the Stamp
While Duck Stamps are great, they are a limited source of revenue. For example, Illinois is fighting a $47 million budget shortfall. For Duck Stamps to cover this amount, birders would need to purchase over 3.13 million Duck Stamps. With other states suffering similar money shortages, the National Wildlife Refuges need other sources of funding.
National Wildlife Refuges need politicians on all sides to agree that habitat is important for everyone, not just “nature lovers”. There is land out there waiting to be bought and protected but not enough money to purchase it. Some of the great educational programs are in jeopardy of being cut, along with wonderful employees who make the NWRs great. We as bird-conservationists (birders) need to do something about this!
While it may seem like an overwhelming complex problem (because it is) if we all take some of the burden, it really isn’t that bad. As I’ve mentioned before with the Long Tail of Birding, large problems become much easier when many people put in their time, talents, and cold hard cash. Tell all your friends to support efforts to save bird habitat. It isn’t just birders that benefit from having protected land. If you like breathing clean air and drinking clean water, you are endebted to habitat conservation.
So, if you haven’t bought a Duck Stamp this year, go ahead and get one now! $15.00 isn’t that much, now is it? And if you already have one, why not buy one and give it to a child? They’ll think it’s cool and show all their friends. And kids are great at word-of-mouth marketing!