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MBCF/Stamp Easement Acquisitions

Easement Acquisition

The revealing chart – above – from the Division of Realty (USFWS) shows the percentage of Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) dollars going into easements in the Refuge System since the early 1960s.

Easements, of course, are becoming increasingly important for preserving valuable habitats, as clearly indicated on the chart. These have shown impressive growth since the early 1990s, and they have been highly impressive engines of conservation in the last decade.

A wetland easement pays a landowner to permanently protect wetlands. Wetlands covered by an easement cannot be drained, filled, leveled, or burned. (When these wetlands dry up naturally, however, they can be farmed, grazed, or hayed.) Land covered by a permanent grassland easement may not be cultivated. Mowing, haying, and grass seed harvesting must be delayed until after July 15 each year to protect nesting birds.

In the chart, the grassland, wetland, and habitat easement categories all refer to the specific easement documents described in the Service Manual Chapter 341 FW 6. These types of permanent easements, to protect Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs), are mainly acquired in the five states in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), primarily on working ranches or agricultural lands.

Region 6, the mountain-prairie region covering eight states in the American West, and Region 3, the Midwest region also covering eight states, use the same wetland easement standards (shown in  dark blue) in the PPR, but they used them somewhat differently.

Region 6 uses the "grassland easement" document (shown in  green), and Region 3 uses the "habitat easement" document (shown in  purple). Region 3 habitat easement also includes some additional wetlands protection not present in the Region 6 grassland easement.

The "other conservation easement" category (shown in  gold) encompasses all other conservation easements. These habitat easements differ from, and are generally more restrictive than, the minimally restrictive easements described above, with specialized easement terms set through negotiations with landowners.

Summarizing, these wetland, grassland, and habitat easements are the three types of easements that the USFWS uses to acquire for Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) in the PPR, whereas the "other conservation easement" category encompasses all easements acquired for National Wildlife Refuges.

Easements have a vital role to play these days, primarily for waterfowl but also for long-legged waders, shorebirds, terns, gulls, rails, and wetland-associated songbirds. But grassland birds, especially grassland songbirds and a cluster of shorebird species, are benefiting greatly. Easements are the crucial conservation connector for many working lands. Hundreds of landowners in the PPR – especially in the Dakotas – are awaiting permanent easement agreements with the USFWS.

There is a lot more information available from the USFWS on the Wetland Easement Program and the Grassland Easement Program.

 

The Beautiful and Practical 2015-16 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp

The very first Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (popularly called the "Duck Stamp") costing $25 was released at a ceremony on the morning of June 26 in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Bass Pro Shops there.

Almost all the revenue for the sales of this Stamp  – adding up to an estimated $40 million for the year - will go directly to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF). (The MBCF receipts come mainly from the sales of the Stamp and import duties collected on arms and ammunition.) This dedicated funding  will secure vital breeding, stopover, and wintering habitats for waterfowl, other bird species, and other wildlife across the National Wildlife Refuge System.

With the new Stamp, moreover, fully $10 of the $25 will be directed to wetland and grassland easements in the System.
 
Today, parts of 252 National Wildlife Refuges (accounting for more than 2.37 million acres) and over 200 Waterfowl Production Areas (with over 3.0 million acres secured) owe their existence to the stamp investments made through the MBCF. It is comforting to know that every time you buy a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp you are helping secure valuable habitat for birds, wildlife, and for future generations of Americans.

The artwork on the 2015-2016 Stamp shows a pair of lovely Ruddy Ducks painted in acrylic by Jennifer Miller of Olean, New York. Describing her outdoor as well as artistic interests, Miller says, "I grew up with a very vivid imagination, and couldn't stop drawing birds and dragons. I am mostly self-taught, with no formal art education, and studied under the guidance of the natural world…  I draw a lot of inspiration from the land around me! I have what others have referred to as an 'explosive' passion for nature and wildlife, and indeed I go out of my way daily to study, observe, and learn about my interests. I am equally happy examining a wild bird through binoculars as I am examining bits of moss growing across a fallen tree."
 
You can find out more about Miller and her work on her website. And you can follow her "Duck Stamp Adventure," a blog about her work and travels upon winning the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest here.
 
For more on the contest and the program see the website for the Federal Duck Stamp Office.

 

An early judging for the Federal Duck Stamp

Here is a photo of an early art judging for the Federal Duck Stamp. The date is uncertain, but some of the circumstances are not. It was a judging held in private, probably at the Department of the Interior in Washington DC. It was held with only a few people present, because the first Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest was only open to the general public starting in 1966. Four of the judges are standing, along with Bob Hines (1912-1994).

The photo was from a collection of images in the Bob Hines collection. Hines, of course, created the original rules for a Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest and managed the competition for over three decades.

On the reverse of the photo, and in Hines's handwriting, was the following: "Chairman of Duck Stamp Committee on hand at judging.  Judges are 4 fellows on my right."

It's anybody's guess, but perhaps the photo was taken in the early 1960s. Comments from folk who may have better conclusions on the time, place, and individuals, are most welcome!

The image was graciously provided to us through John D. Juriga, author of Bob Hines, National Wildlife Artist (2012, Beaver's Pond Press).

 

Support a Campaign for the Stamp

 

There are many ways to help support the growth and appreciation of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp. The print public service announcement (PSA) for the Stamp shown here is just one way. There are many others we recommend for your consideration. 

Join our Friends Group and support its work.

Don't just buy the Stamp, display it. Get a stamp in a plastic holder for your personal use, or purchase blank holders in bulk for your organization, club, or group.

Stay connected!

See the many materials that are available to help support the Stamp, including posters, the PSAs and a listing of the "top ten reasons" to buy the Stamp.

You and your refuge friends group, duck club, birding club, or photography club can sell Stamps.  The best way is through consignments from Amplex.

Write an article in support of the Stamp for your nature/bird/hunting organization, using materials provided here.

Except where noted, web site content by Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This license allows sharing and a right to adapt the written materials, with appropriate credit.

Read even more: follow our links for related information and activities to support the Stamp.

Let us know what you think and how we can all do better to advance the cause of the Stamp.

Let us know if you want a speaker at your event, convention, conference, to speak on the importance of the Stamp.

 

Your Duck Stamp Dollars at Work

The image at left shows a Stamp-associated sign – "Your Duck Stamp Dollars At Work" – at an emergent marsh at the Pondicherry Division of the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildife Refuge in Jefferson, New Hampshire. (You can see Cherry Mountain in the background, part of the White Mountain National Forest.)  Almost 30 percent of the Pondicherry Division has been acquired through Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) dollars. The MBCF is where Stamp dollars are held prior to investment.

You can access an invaluable listing of every National Wildlife Refuge that has received funding through Stamp dollars here (updated as of 30 September 2012). This involves 252 refuges in the lower 48 states.

Another way to look at the data is via the following interactive map of refuges across the country, prepared by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The map is color-coded according to the percentage of land in each that was acquired with Duck Stamp/MBCF money.