WASHINGTON — Migratory Bird Conservation Commission members Congressman John Dingell (Mich.) and Robert Wittman (Va.) introduced legislation in Congress to increase the availability and buying power of the Federal Duck Stamp — a move designed to continue the success that the stamp has had in conserving waterfowl habitat across the United States.
Proceeds from sales of the Federal Duck Stamp are used to purchase and protect waterfowl habitat across the country. Since its inception in 1934, sales from the stamp have topped $700 million and have conserved more than 5.2 million acres of habitat.
“Federal Duck stamps are one of the major success stories of conservation,” said Dingell, who has served on the Commission for more than 40 years.
“This bill will help continue the 75-year tradition that waterfowlers have in protecting the resource that they value,” added Wittman.
For 18 years the purchasing power of the stamp has failed to keep up with skyrocketing land values. In North and South Dakota — two states where breeding habitat is crucial — the cost to protect land has gone up more than 200 percent just since 1998. In California, where northern pintail ducks migrate through the Central Valley, land values have dramatically risen, making protecting waterfowl habitat incredibly difficult.
In the recent “State of the Birds” report, released by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, many waterfowl populations were cited as faring better than other birds, helped by the investment made by sportsmen through Duck Stamp sales.
“Waterfowlers make up 95 percent of Duck Stamp sales,” said Scott Sutherland, Director of the Governmental Affairs Office for Ducks Unlimited. “Sportsmen were the first conservationists, and continue to be leaders in putting waterfowl and wildlife habitat on the ground.”
Under the proposal, the stamp could be sold by any distributor designated by the Secretary of Interior, which would expand the availability of the stamp. The price would also be increased to $25 for the 2010-2011 hunting season. The 18 years since the increase in 1991 is the longest period that there has not been an adjustment to the price of the stamp in its history.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands — nature’s most productive ecosystem — and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres important to waterfowl each year.