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Stand Up for Loxahatchee: Support Refuge Management

23 November 2016

by Ed Penny board member, Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp

Many of you have likely heard the news that the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is in danger of losing most of its lands. The Refuge is located in western Palm Beach County, Florida and is composed of 221 square miles (approximately 144,000 acres) of land owned by the both the federal government (through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS]) and the State of Florida (through the Southwest Florida Water Management District [District]). For a long time, the USFWS and the District have partnered to manage wildlife habitat and to provide public access at this large refuge. It is the largest intact portion of all that remains of the once vast northern Everglades. The refuge is important to the nation, the state, and local communities – over 300,000 visitors come every year to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, fish, photograph, birdwatch, and learn about and explore the Everglades; thousands of Palm Beach County students have been able to experience the Everglades first-hand on field trips to the refuge.

But now, the refuge could be reduced to only the relatively small portion (ca. 3,000 acres) that was purchased with federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (or "Duck Stamp") funds. How could this happen to such an important land complex? The District is considering terminating its long-term cooperative agreement with USFWS to manage and operate the refuge. The District wants exclusive management control of this land because the spread of invasive exotic plants (primarily melaleuca trees and Old World climbing fern) on the Refuge has gotten out of hand. These invasive plants are a very serious problem because they overtake and replace native plants that provide homes for migratory birds and other wildlife. Their spread beyond the boundary of the refuge is a problem for neighboring landowners as well. (Both Melaleuca quinquenervia and the fern, Lygodium microphyllum, are on Florida's list of noxious weeds, and hence constitute species of particular concern.)

Control of noxious weeds requires a great deal of focused cooperation and financial investment, and termination of the agreement would force the District to foot the entire bill. The Refuge spent almost $3 million to treat invasive species last year, more than half of its entire annual budget, and the state spent a similar amount, but the problem continues. It is estimated that $5 million for 5 years would be required to bring these noxious plants under maintenance control. These costs are in addition to essential management costs like performing prescribed fires, clearing canoe trails, fighting wildfires, and assuming law enforcement responsibility for the entire area. It is also not clear how the state would continue any kind of educational or recreational opportunities for its visitors.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the National Wildlife Federation, the Everglades Foundation, the Everglades Coalition, and the Friends of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge are speaking up to bring attention to this issue and to help resolve this problem. For more information and to make your voice heard, visit http://refugeassociation.org/action.

The issue at this refuge and in other communities around the country with refuges or other public lands is not simply a bureaucratic tug of war between government agencies or an argument between big government or small government. The more broadly relevant issue here is the extremely dire need for committed care and stewardship of our public lands, whether they are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System or owned by a state agency.  Our Friends group is very enthusiastic in supporting any land acquisitions made with Duck Stamp dollars, because we understand their importance. We are also quick to react to "action alerts" and to contact our elected officials when important funding vehicles like the Land and Water Conservation Fund are endangered by spending cuts. However, land "conservation" is more than just buying land for the public domain and then simply leaving it alone. You see, once lands are purchased with public dollars like those from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (Duck Stamp Fund), they must be managed and cared for to truly benefit migratory birds and Americans. Public land management requires sustained financial commitment, but public funding for science-based, habitat management has declined over the last several years.

What exactly is meant by habitat management? Habitat is the often referred to as "the place where an animal lives." It may be obvious, but birds live in the wetlands, grasslands, and forests of our public lands throughout the U.S. It may be counterintuitive, but these places cannot simply be "left alone" to be in a "natural state." These lands must be managed. Similar to a farm, these natural places often require intensive care and maintenance to continue providing food, cover, and places to nest for birds and other wildlife. For example, wetlands require periodic manipulation of water levels (draining and re-flooding) and soils (disking) to produce mudflats for shorebirds and natural foods for waterfowl. Grasslands require regular prescribed fire, and sometimes selective herbicides, to reinvigorate nesting cover for birds and to control the pressure from invasive weeds. Forests require selective timber harvests to help sunlight reach the forest floor; sometimes replanting to generate appropriate species is called for.

These management practices, which support bird and other wildlife populations, require significant investment to acquire water supplies, heavy equipment (tractors), materials (tree seedlings), and knowledgeable people (managers) who know how to use them. Professionals in conservation understand that land stewardship is difficult and sometimes expensive, and for this reason, working together through partnerships is often the best way to get things done. Collaboration and cooperation is rarely easy, though, so the District, USFWS, and their respective leaders should be commended and supported for cooperating for so many years to manage habitat and provide public access at Loxahatchee.

Compared to a large and controversial (or even a very popular) land purchase, science-based land management doesn't usually make for attention-grabbing headlines. That is, it doesn't until our failure to properly manage the land leads to a difficult situation like the one at Loxahatchee. But committed stewardship is just as important to migratory birds and our opportunities to enjoy them as land acquisition! A similar situation could occur at any of our treasured national wildlife refuges or state Wildlife Management Areas unless we acknowledge the problem of reduced funding for management.

The decline in funding for public land management is real and must be addressed. For those of us who truly love our migratory birds and public lands, whether we enjoy them in a duck blind or through the lens of a spotting scope, it is time to speak up for a stronger commitment to managing our public lands, regardless of their ownership.


Photo of Loxahatchee at Sunset by Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

This post first appeared in the 23 November 2016 issue of Wingtips.

Innovative Proposal to Change Duck Stamp Art Rules Supported by Friends

13 February 2016

The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is in favor of recommended changes that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has just made for the rules governing the famous Federal Duck Stamp Contest.

This proposal appeared in the Federal Register on Thursday, 11 February. These recommend that the portrayal of the waterfowl on the Duck Stamp (officially known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp) should be enhanced by the addition of an appropriate non-waterfowl migratory bird species, beginning with the 2016 contest to be held this fall.

In existence since 1934, the Duck Stamp has generated more than $800 million for the preservation of over 6.5 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat. Since 1958, almost all of the proceeds from the approximately 1.8 million stamps sold annually go to secure this vital habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Stamp, today costing $25, is required of waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older when they hunt waterfowl. Many other people buy the Stamp, including non-waterfowl hunters, anglers, bird watchers, wildlife photographers, stamp collectors, supportive refuge Friends groups, and environmental educators.

According to the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, the latest proposal is real opportunity to:

  1. draw positive attention to the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty this year;
  2. provide new artistic challenges to the participating bird artists in the Duck Stamp Art Contest (and potentially bring in new artists);
  3. generate additional enthusiasm among people to support migratory bird conservation (increase people's understanding that it's "not just for ducks"), which may motivate more Americans to buy the Stamp.

The USFWS program for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp combines great art and design with a proven record of solid conservation that goes back over 80 years, securing vital wetland and grassland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System and providing important recreational opportunities for all Americans. It's art and conservation, both simple and beautiful.

With the recent increase in the price of the stamp – to $25 – it is important to devise innovative ways to make the Stamp more appealing, especially for those Americans who are not required to buy a Stamp. It is crucial to find out how to sell more Stamps for conservation. Modifying the art rules to include additional and appropriate bird species is an ideal way to raise that possibility.

Many organizations expressed support for this idea, in comments made last year.

According to the Friends, the only disappointing thing about the current USFWS proposal is that it is not specific enough as written. The group maintains that the USFWS should have provided more details in the proposal, so that the public, which includes many talented artists and supporters, could provide better feedback to the USFWS.

The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp presented just such specific wording suggestions in the past – to the USFWS in 2014 and then distributed to the general public in early February 2015.

Presented correctly, these contest changes will benefit wildlife artists, waterfowl hunters, and other Americans who buy the Stamp; support the Refuge System; and, most importantly, conserve the birds and other wildlife depending on us to secure wetland and grassland habitat for their survival.


Details on the USFWS proposal (including a downloable PDF) and the comment period (through 14 March 2016) can be found in the Federal Register, Revision of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) Contest Regulations.  (A shorter, sharable link is https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-02665.) To view other public comments and contribute your own, visit Regulations.gov, docket ID FWS-HQ-MB-2015-0161.

You may also send in hard copy comments. Comments will be taken until 14 March 2016.

Three Hautman Brothers Sweep the 2015 Federal Duck Stamp Contest

23 September 2015
 
A trio of brothers from Minnesota made history on Saturday, 19 September, as they swept the top three spots in the 2015 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. The contest, which ran over two days, was held at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Joseph Hautman, of Plymouth, Minnesota, won the contest with his acrylic painting of a pair of flying Trumpeter Swans. This is Hautman's fifth Federal Duck Stamp contest win (previous wins covered the contests in 1991 [Spectacled Eider], 2001 [Black Scoter], 2007 [Northern Pintail], and 2011 [Wood Duck].)  Among other things, Joseph Hautman is currently on the board of the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp.

Hautman's fine painting will be made into the 2016-2017 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly called the Duck Stamp, which will go on sale in late June 2016. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) produces the Stamp, which now sells for $25. The Stamp should raise $25-$42 million annually to provide critical dollars that go into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) to conserve and protect wetland and grassland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.

Robert Hautman of Delano, Minnesota, placed second in the contest with his acrylic painting of a pair of Mallards. He has won the Federal Duck Stamp contest twice (1996 [Canada Goose] and 2000 [Northern Pintail]).

The third brother, James Hautman of Chaska, Minnesota, secured third place this year with his acrylic painting of another pair of Mallards. He is a four-time winner of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest (1989 [Black-bellied Whistling Duck], 1994 [Mallard], 1998 [Greater Scaup], and 2010 [Greater White-fronted Goose].)

Among them, the three Hautman brothers have won 11 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contests.

Of 157 entries in this year's competition, there were 10 entries that made it to the final round of judging. Eligible species for this year's contest were Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, and Trumpeter Swan. They were depicted by artists in the following order: Mallard (25.1%), Blue-winged Teal (24.7%), Cinnamon Teal and Trumpeter Swan (both at 19%), and Gadwall (10.8%).

"Buying Federal Duck Stamps remains the simplest way to make a difference in conserving our nation's birds and their habitats," said Jerome Ford, USFWS Assistant Director for Migratory Birds. "For more than 80 years, hunters, bird watchers and millions of people who simply care about the environment have 'put their stamp on conservation' with their Duck Stamp purchases."

 

MBCC Makes Decisions to Grow the Refuge System

19 September 2015

On September 9, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) approved nearly $6.5 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 3,274 acres for five National Wildlife Refuges through fee title land acquisitions and easement acquisitions. The $6.5 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) was raised in large part through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (Duck Stamps).

"Hunters, birdwatchers and refuge supporters have once again demonstrated the important role they play in conserving our nation's wildlife," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "The National Wildlife Refuge System preserves some of our nation's most diverse and valuable wildlife habitat… The money generated through the sale of Duck Stamps is essential in helping maintain and grow this unique network."

The five Commission-approved refuge projects are as follows:

  • Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Maryland: Price approval to acquire 758 acres for $2.235 million. The fee-title acquisition consisted of five tracts, consisting of tidal marsh and freshwater creek, areas to be managed for waterfowl and other wildlife. To date, the USFWS has acquired 21,010 acres at the NWR with MBCF dollars.
  • Brazoria NWR, Texas: Boundary addition and price approval to acquire a 1,090-acre tract for $1,962,000. The property from one landowner consists mainly of tidal wetlands, providing wintering, migration, and resident habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, neotropical migratory birds, and other wetland-dependent wildlife species. To date, the USFWS has acquired a total of 44,414 acres ar this NWR, the lion's share (42,641 acres) secured by MBCF dollars.
  • Klamath Marsh NWR, Oregon: Boundary addition and price approval to acquire 400 acres for $400,000, or $1,000 per acre. The fee-title acquisition should provide habitat for a number of waterfowl (e.g., Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Redhead, Ruddy Duck, and White-fronted Goose). The NWR is also an important migration and nesting area for Sandhill Cranes and Bald Eagles. The habitat consists primarily of marsh composed of cattail and hardstem bulrush. To date, the USFWS has acquired a total of 41,045 acres at this NWR, including 18,289 acres with MBCF dollars.
  • Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area, California: Price approval to acquire approximately 205 easement acres for $580,000. The Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area supports the last remnant of wetlands and associated wildlife habitat in a dramatically altered Tulare Lake watershed. The three tracts in this arrangement are either immediately adjacent to the boundary of Kern National Wildlife Refuge or in close proximity to other lands that the USFWS has acquired with MBCF approval.
  • Turnbull NWR, Washington: Price approval to acquire an 821-acre tract for $1,298,000. This NWR benefits waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, neotropical migrants, and other wildlife (including Threatened and Endangered species). The two tracts acquired are currently being used for grazing and hay production and will be restored to wetlands and associated uplands. To date, the USFWS has acquired 14,618 acres here through MBCF dollars.

According to the USFWS, these actions will not only help provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, but they will also increased opportunities for refuge visitors who hunt, watch birds and other wildlife, and photograph wildlife.

If you bought a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp last year, your purchase went to secure these properties. You may now take a well-deserved bow.

Friends announce new way to support Jr. Duck Stamp

30 May 2015

The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is now a registered charitable organization with AmazonSmile. If you're a customer of Amazon.com, now you can designate that 0.5% of your eligible purchases will be donated to the Friends, at no cost to you. In turn, these funds will be re-donated by the Friends to the Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program. This is an great way to benefit young wildlife artists and students of conservation while you shop.

To support the program, log on to AmazonSmile at smile.amazon.com with your Amazon.com username and password, and designate Friends of the Migratory Bird Duck Stamp Inc as your charity. All of your current wish lists, preferences, purchase history, and other account information are available at AmazonSmile. Then go shopping. Your purchases will be totaled and the percentage donation calculated automatically. Questions about AmazonSmile? Check the FAQ.

Bookmark AmazonSmile and use that site when you return (rather than www.amazon.com), so that your subsequent purchases will also qualify to benefit the Junior Duck Stamp and its educational curriculum for kindergartners through high-schoolers.

Friends inaugurate honorary life membership

8 May 2015

A year ago, in May 2014, at the 9th Annual International Wildlife Refuge Alliance (IWRA) Benefit Dinner, the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp presented Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI) with a formal award honoring his tireless work for birds and their habitats and for his leadership on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, going back to his inclusion on the MBCC in 1969.

 

Mr. Dingell's role in Congress and on the MBCC has been one of continued vigilance and leadership, consistently raising important issues to defend wetlands, waterfowl, other birds and wildlife, and the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

 

With those contributions in mind, last month we extended to the now-retired Congressman the status of Honorary Life Member of the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp. 

Friends propose rule-change concepts for art contest

4 February 2015

The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp has presented a suggestion to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to include an image of a “secondary” non-waterfowl migratory bird on the Federal Duck Stamp. This idea is intended to enhance the stamp in recognition of the upcoming centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty.

The current rules for the stamp’s artwork clearly stipulate that the eligible waterfowl species – with five species considered each year – be depicted alive and as the “dominant feature in the design.” There should be no change whatsoever in that essential rule.

But the centennial period for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) presents the possibility of some added creativity and appeal, especially insofar as the MBTA covers all migratory birds.

The Migratory Bird Treaty was signed by President Wilson in August, 1916. The act itself was then passed by Congress in 1918. And it was sustained by a major decision from the Supreme Court in 1920. So the celebration period can actually extend for multiple years.

Our suggestion for a “secondary” migratory bird on the Duck Stamp, corresponds with the Service’s recognition of the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty. The effort could start with the art contest in 2016 and might be appropriate through the contest of 2019 (to cover a stamp that would overlap with the centennial of the crucial Supreme Court decision of 1920.)

Presented correctly, this could be a new and creative challenge for the regular and reoccurring wildlife artists in the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. There is also the serious potential of attracting a new field of artists to the art competition.

And this idea should also be an important way to appeal to a broader audience. It’s a reminder that the proceeds for the stamp do not simply benefit ducks. Many other wildlife species in the National Wildlife Refuge System benefit from stamp-dollar investments. In any case, a slight adjustment in the stamp art presents a new opportunity to stress the vital message – that stamp proceeds go to essential Refuge System habitats and benefit multiple species.

Moreover, now with the increase in the price of the stamp to $25, it will be crucial to devise new ways to make the stamp more appealing, especially for those who are not required to buy one.

These ideas were originally presented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the summer of 2014.

A full explanation of the proposed rule-changes is presented in the 4 February 2015 issue of Wingtips. In summary, our few suggested changes to the existing rules below are in red and in red strikeout.


From Page 2:

What can I send to the contest?

A Federal Duck Stamp Contest art entry consists of a two dimensional design. The regulations for the contest do not specify a medium.

Judges are instructed to look for scenes depicting live birds in their natural habitat. Only five species of waterfowl are allowed each year for consideration. The eligible waterfowl species must be the dominant feature in the design; this means it must be noticeably larger than any other elements you may wish to include such as the required non-waterfowl migratory bird species (to recognize the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty, and the related Migratory Bird Treaty Act – MBTA) or any optional decoys, dogs, or lighthouses.

Judges will also be looking at images that will reproduce well as a stamp.

Each entry must be accompanied by the Display, Participation & Reproduction Rights Agreement (see page 7) and an entry fee of $125. The fee must be a certified check, cashier’s check, or money order made payable to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. No personal checks or cash will be accepted. If you send a personal check or cash, your painting will be disqualified.

How do I prepare my entry?

Each artist should have a working knowledge in three four major areas of special interest to Federal Duck Stamp Contest judges:

  • Basic Waterfowl Bird Biology – for example, if you choose to depict a spring scene, is the bird’s dominant waterfowl’s plumage correct for that season?
  • Choosing and depicting an appropriate accompanying bird species – is the required non-waterfowl migratory bird species, included in the image as a secondary species to recognize the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty and related Act (MBTA), appropriate for depicted habitat and season. Does it adequately reflect the conservation uses for which Federal Duck Stamp dollars are spent?
  • Artistic Composition – is the image artistically interesting, does it “pop” when you look at it?
  • Suitability for printing at a reduced size – the image provides the design for a 1 ¾” L x 1 ½” W stamp. Considering the amount of detail you wish to include, do you think it will show well in this reduced size?

Entries must be uniform in size. Each entry must be 9”x 12” and matted over with bright white matting. The matting must be 1” wide. (See the diagram on page 5.) We recommend you use a 1/8” masonite board or foamcore with 1/8” matting to equal the total width of ¼” thick. Any entry exceeding ¼” thick will be disqualified.

From pages 3-4 among Contest Regulations:

91.14 restrictions on subject matter of entry.

A live portrayal of any bird(s) one waterfowl species of the five or fewer identified eligible species must be the DOMINANT feature of the design. The design may depict more than one of the eligible species. Designs may include, but are not limited to, hunting dogs, hunting scenes, use of waterfowl decoys, National Wildlife Refuges as the background of habitat scenes, and other designs that depict the sporting, conservation, stamp collecting and other uses of the stamp. The design must also include another migratory bird species besides the eligible waterfowl that is the dominant feature in the work. The choice of this non-waterfowl migratory bird is up to the artist, but it expected to represent a species covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty and related Act (MBTA) and benefitting from the investment of Federal Duck Stamp dollars. (This does not preclude the addition of other elements, such as hunting dogs, hunting scenes, decoys, blinds, lighthouses and/or other structures as background.) The overall mandate will be to select the best design that will make an interesting, useful and attractive duck stamp that will be accepted and prized by hunters, stamp collectors, wildlife-watchers, conservationists, and others. The design must be the contestants original “hand drawn” creation. The entry design may not be copied or duplicated from previously published art, including photo graphs, or from images in any format published on the Internet. Photographs, computer-generated art, art produced from a computer printer or other computer/mechanical output device (air brush method excepted) are not eligible to be entered into the contest and will be disqualified. An entry submitted in a prior contest that was not selected for the Federal or a state stamp design may be submitted in the current contest if it meets the above criteria.

– – – – – – – – – – –

NOTE:   When the artist submits his/her piece of artwork for the stamp showing the dominant waterfowl, the form should also include a space where the identity of the “secondary bird species” is indicated.

 

 

 

Two Duck Stamp Bills Become Law

PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT:

Paul J. Baicich
(443) 745-5179
Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp
    contact.us@friendsofthestamp.org

19 December 2014

The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp congratulates Congress and President Obama for passing and signing the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 and the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act into law yesterday. 

The Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 will increase the price of the stamp from $15 to $25. The price increase of $10 will be dedicated to conservation easements where ownership remains in private hands. An estimated additional $16 million per year for habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System could be available through this increase.

Formally known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, the Duck Stamp dollars go to secure wetland, bottomland, and grassland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since 1934, the sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $900 million, funds used to purchase or lease over 5.5 million acres of vital habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 98 cents of every dollar from the stamp goes to land preservation and related acquisition costs.

 “The stamp is one of the most successful conservation programs in the history of our nation,” said Paul Baicich, president of the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp. “It’s an incredible success story that brings people together to conserve America’s wildlife heritage. Even at $25, purchasing the stamp is a great value, and it's the easiest thing anyone can do to protect crucial wetland and grassland habitat in the refuge system. Beyond waterfowl, this really helps shorebirds, long-legged waders, raptors, songbirds, and plenty of other wildlife," added Baicich.

Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said "By restoring the lost purchasing power of the Federal Duck Stamp, this legislation will give us the opportunity to work with thousands of additional landowners across the nation to maintain vital habitat for waterfowl, grassland birds, and hundreds of other native species.”

Ashe thanked the Friends group, adding that “The Federal Duck Stamp has no more passionate supporters than Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp. On behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American people, I want to thank your organization and its members for your invaluable assistance in the successful effort to restore the purchasing power of the stamp. The future of the Duck Stamp is bright, and the success of this bipartisan effort will benefit wildlife and people for generations to come."

The Friends group stated that all who visit and appreciate our National Wildlife Refuge System – hunters and sportsmen, birders, artists, environmental educators, photographers, and others – have for generations appreciated lands and long-lasting protections enacted through this program. “We especially appreciate the efforts of key players, like Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, that made this particular legislation possible,” added Baicich.

Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, remarked, "The additional Duck Stamp funding provided by waterfowl hunters and other conservationists will not only conserve critical waterfowl habitat, but will also help ensure the future of our water-fowling traditions."

The Friends group also noted several members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who were instrumental in the legislation’s passage. Among these were Senator David Vitter (R-La) and Representative John Fleming (R-La) who both firmly pushed for the passage of this legislation.

Representative John D. Dingell, Jr. (D-Mi) was also singled out for his efforts.  The longest-serving member of Congress in history, Dingell started serving in the House in 1955. As a young Congressman with little seniority, he championed the 1958 amendments to the Duck Stamp Act, revisions which became the most significant protections for the use of the Stamp in building the National Wildlife Refuge System since the Act's passage in 1934. Congressman Dingell has also been the longest-serving member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, having started on the MBCC in 1969. “His role on the MBCC has been one of vigilance and leadership,” said Baicich,” consistently raising important issues to defend wetlands, waterfowl, other birds, and wildlife, through the National Wildlife Refuge System.” Congressman Dingell will end his service this year, as he is leaves the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Friends group also thanked Congress and President Obama for the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act, recently passed and signed into law yesterday. This authorizes the Secretary of the Interior permanent authority to allow any state to issue "electronic duck stamps." A number of states participated in the e-stamp pilot program created by Congress in 2006 to allow the stamps to be purchased over the Internet.  Under this law, Stamps will still be mailed to buyers, but the online proof of purchase immediately fulfills the requirement of possession. After 45 days, the paper proof-of-purchase expires.

“Our next task will be to sustain, if not increase, stamp sales, spreading the word on the role that the stamp plays for waterfowl, wetlands, and far beyond,” concluded Baicich.

– – – – – –

The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is dedicated to increasing promotional and educational efforts concerning the stamp and the National Wildlife Refuge System and to increasing the regular, voluntary purchase of the stamp among hunters and non-hunters alike.

As a national, independent nonprofit, we encourage all who value our great outdoors to buy stamps. We bring together a diverse cross-section of those dedicated to supporting the stamp and the refuge system – hunters and sportsmen, birders, artists, educators, photographers, stamp collectors, and others.

Our organization fosters better understanding of the legacy of how this program conserves habitat and builds the National Wildlife Refuge System, benefitting wildlife, natural ecosystems, and the American public.

 

 

Duck Stamp Movement: Bill Passes the House, Now Up to the Senate

23 November 2014

On November 17, H.R. 5069, the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014, passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The act was passed on a voice vote, so individual representatives' votes were not recorded.

Since the federal duck stamp's introduction in 1934, it has raised almost a billion dollars and has conserved more than 6 million acres of wetland, bottomland, and grassland habitat to help build the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The price of the stamp – currently $15 – has not increased in over two decades.

If passed into law, the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 would raise the price of a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp an additional $10, to $25.

Dan Ashe, Director of the USFWS, commented, "The increase is desperately needed, and I hope the Senate takes action to approve the increase in the current Congress. Wetland landscapes, and the habitat they provide for waterfowl and other native species, are at risk across the country, as rising commodity prices fuel both increasing land prices and the conversion of small wetlands for crop production."

The $10 increase in this bill is dedicated to easements, and not for fee-title acquisitions. It is estimated that an additional $16 million will be available from the stamp for these easements, a welcome addition at this point. (The USFWS is already securing many habitat easements, especially across the Prairie Pothole Region.) The easement restriction is appropriate for this increase, but would be troublesome if it were held over for price increases in the future.

There was an amendment included in the bill which applies to Alaskan subsistence hunters residing in rural areas. This would effectively reverse a 2001 policy decision by the Department of Interior Regional Solicitor that requires all subsistence waterfowl hunters to purchase federal duck stamps.

The bill also includes a provision that allows the Secretary of the Interior to reduce the price per stamp if it is determined that the increase results in an overall reduction in revenues.

The Senate could take up a parallel bill (S. 2621) sometime in the next few weeks. The bill will expire unless it is passed by the Senate before the end of the year.

Throughout the process we would all benefit from a thorough discussion of the importance of saving valuable wetland and grassland habitats, the constructive role of easements at this stage, and the need to increase sales of the stamp, especially among those Americans not currently required to buy the stamp.

Congressman John D. Dingell honored by the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp

20 May 2014

On Sunday, 18 May 2014, the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp presented Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI) an award in recognition of his many years of service for the cause of conservation in the House of Representatives and his vigilance while serving on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission.

To recognize the Congressman's service, the award was presented on his home turf, in Wyandotte, Michigan. The actual event was the 9th Annual Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Benefit Dinner run by the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance. There, the Congressman was presented a framed print with Joe Hautman's rendition of a male Wood Duck, artwork which graced the 2012-13 Stamp, along with a copy of the Stamp itself and a special inscription from the Friends:

To Congressman John Dingell on behalf of the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp honoring your tireless work for birds and their habitats and for your leadership on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission.  ~ Joe Hautman, May 2014