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Looking at the 80th Anniversary

The Very First Day of Sale for the Stamp – August 22, 1934

After years of controversy, a Congressional bill to fund wetland and waterfowl conservation gained ground in the early 1930s. Starting in 1931, a pair of bills to establish a federal funding stamp was getting serious attention. Congressional hearings on the subject in April, 1932 seemed to resolve the debate over how to collect the funds and in what fashion these funds would be spent.

The new bill passed and was signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in March, 1934. With Roosevelt's signing of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, popularly known as the Duck Stamp Act, funds from stamp sales would be deposited in a special treasury account, the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF).

Just ten days before the bill signing, artist and conservationist Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling was appointed the Chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey by FDR. The artwork for the very first stamp (1934-1935) soon followed, showing a pair of landing Mallards. Darling provided six model sketches for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, all produced on laundry cardboard stiffeners that were in Darling’s office. Darling approached these works of his as concepts, but the engravers actually chose one and began stamp production. The one chosen had been created by Darling in about an hour.

The first day of sale was August 22, 1934. In the first year, 635,000 stamps were sold at $1 apiece. The revenue generated from the stamp was directed to the Department of the Agriculture for wetland conservation.

The rest, as they say, is history.


The 2014-2015 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp

You are now able to buy –­ and display – your 2014-2015 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, popularly called the “Duck Stamp.” The 2014-2015 Stamp shows a lovely pair of Canvasbacks painted by Adam Grimm, an artist from South Dakota. Grimm's art previously appeared on the Federal Duck Stamp for 2000-2001. That image was of a Mottled Duck, and 1,698,780 stamps were sold, producing $25,481,700 of revenue to build the Refuge System.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produces the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, which sells for $15 and raises about $25 million each year to provide critical funds to conserve and protect wetland and grassland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge system for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.

Since the 1930s, Stamps have contributed over $850 million and have helped to protect 5.5 million acres of habitat for wildlife and future generations. The Stamp itself functions as a federal license to hunt waterfowl for anyone over the age of 16. It's also important to remember that anyone who possesses a valid stamp is allowed free entry to any National Wildlife Refuge that may charge for entry.

Buying the stamp is perhaps the single simplest thing individuals can do to support a legacy of wetland and grassland conservation for birds. Almost all the stamp proceeds go to help secure valuable Refuge System habitats. The stamp, of course, is not something that will benefit only ducks. Many other bird species – from shorebirds to songbirds – are dependent on habitat secured through stamp purchases. The same could be said about the benefits to other wildlife – not only birds – and water quality.

This is a major refuge-building and conservation stamp!


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.

Participate in the related Stamp-support Listserv to discuss sales, promotion, and appreciation of the Stamp.

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.

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.

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.





Black-necked Stilt


Everyone with a love for nature and the outdoors should know that the purchase of a Stamp is not something that will just benefit ducks. Numerous kinds of shorebirds, long-legged waders and wetland and grassland song birds are dependent on habitat derived from Stamp purchases. Black-necked Stilt is just one of the non-waterfowl species that benefits from Stamp investment.

This graceful bird is often conspicuous in shallow freshwater and brackish ponds, open marshes, and flooded fields. With long legs, it strides along muddy shores or wades out in open waters. When in flight, the Black-necked Stilt will hold its bill straight out while its legs will dangle behind. Its nest is built along the shore or on little islands, often by a clump of reeds, grasses, or other vegetation. A nest may start low, but a rise in water brings more construction, resulting in a higher, yet well-built, floating platform.

Black-necked Stilts breed on much of our Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coast wetlands and in scattered locations in the interior West. They winter from the coast of southern Oregon, Gulf Coast, and southern Florida south.

Refuges and WPAs can be crucial for families of Black-necked Stilts, especially when one considers the condition of ephemeral wetlands  Such ephemeral wetlands are not necessarily well protected – or even well understood or identified – under current regulations. These wetlands are usually small, often under two acres.They are often liable to be converted to other uses, including being drained for agricultural purposes. Inclusion of such wetlands in the Refuge System preserves them for many species, including Black-necked Stilt.