Duck Stamp: Not Just for Hunters


If you think the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation stamp, or the Duck Stamp as it’s commonly called, is just for waterfowl hunters, think again! Whether you hunt, bird, photograph wildlife and scenery, collect stamps or conserve habitat, you’ll want to purchase this stamp. As much as 98 percent of the $25 price goes to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which supports wetland acquisition for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

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This is Playa Country — a weekly look at the wildlife, wetlands and prairies of the western Great Plains, and the people who manage them — brought to you by Playa Lakes Joint Venture, an organization dedicated to conserving birds and bird habitat.

This time, our topic is what has been the most effective conservation effort in the United States.  Its official name is the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. Everybody knows of it simply as the “Duck Stamp.”

“You can’t really emphasize enough what a really important conservation tool this has been.”

Naturalist Scott Weidensaul, author of more than two dozen books on natural history, including a book nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction writing, “Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere With Migratory Birds.” Weidensaul is a bird-watcher — and a hunter.

“This is something that was born out of desperation during the Dust Bowl, when waterfowl populations, particularly in the Great Plains, were at their lowest — perhaps ever. In the wake of more than a century of market shooting and then the ecological collapse of the Dust Bowl, the idea was — at a time when the country was pretty much broke — to scrape together a little bit of money for conservation. And from that small acorn, a mighty oak tree is grown… and it is one that continues to generate tremendous, and tremendously important, benefits for wildlife conservation every year.”

The duck stamp essentially is a federal hunting license to shoot waterfowl. Here is bird writer and editor Paul Baicich.

“Migratory Bird Stamp dollars go into something called the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.”

These days the stamp is $25.

“Since 1934, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, as it is now called, has been a major funding mechanism for the refuge system. All waterfowl hunters in the country are required a Duck Stamp or Migratory Bird Stamp.”

Ninety-eight percent of duck stamp sales are funnelled to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. That fund supports wetland and grassland acquisition for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Scott Weidensaul says the program generates $50 or $60 million a year.

“And almost all of that, 98 cents out of a dollar, goes to habitat protection. The other goes to land acquisition for National Wildlife Refuges or conservation easements on private property that is important for waterfowl to breed. In fact, much of our National Wildlife Refuge System was built on the Duck Stamp program.”

Duck stamp sales have generated a lot of money for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Hunters are proud — and rightfully so.  In recent times, bird-watchers have also been buying the duck stamp. Playa Lakes Joint Venture’s Christopher Rustay says many Auduboners and bird-watchers are starting to come around and understand that hunters and birders want the same thing.

“We both want to have enough birds that we can view them, or hunt them, and not have to worry about their populations plummeting. We are now much more closely aligned than traditional thought is. I think that perception is changing throughout the country.”

Scott Weidensaul says that little duck stamp, has done a mighty thing.

“The Duck Stamp program, since its inception in 1934, has raised more than $1 billion for waterfowl conservation, and protected something like 5 or 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States. Much of our National Wildlife Refuge System was built on the Duck Stamp program.”

Playa Country, a weekly show about the wildlife, people and landscapes of the western Great Plains. Made possible by the Playa Lakes and Rainwater Basin Joint Ventures.

Original broadcast: January 2014

Posted: October 5, 2015
Topics: Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp