sunday times: duck stamps

October 2, 2005

in Birds

Soon waterfowl will begin streaming through the Great Lakes region.  Some will be migrants, some will stay the winter.  And some will be shot by hunters. This last fact is good news for all of us.

Each of those hunters over the age of 16 purchased a federal duck stamp for $15.  The current 2005-2006 stamp is up top, two male Hooded Mergansers, one of my favorite waterfowl species. Since its inception in 1935, the federal duck program has raised over $600 million, all of which is required by law to go into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.  Ninety-eight cents of every duck stamp dollar goes toward the acquisition of habitat — more than 5 million acres of wetlands in the U.S., maintaining not only waterfowl populations, but all the associated birds and other wildlife in these ecosystems.

Hunters are required to affix a duck stamp to their hunting licenses, but others buy duck stamps as well, helping to preserve wetland habitats.  Many people just collect them; each year features a new design.  The first 15 years, artists were chosen by the government, but since 1949 any artist can enter the competition, now one of the most prestigious art contests in the world.  This year’s winner (which will appear on the 2006-2007 stamp), California’s Sherrie Russell Meline, is only the second woman to win the competition.  Her winning portrait of a Ross’s Goose is shown below.  The first stamp created by Ding Darling was of a pair of Mallards and sold for $1.  Today in mint condition it’s worth $1,075. My personal favorite is this 1998-99 stamp by Rob Steiner, of a Barrow’s Goldeneye.  (There is also a Junior Duck Stamp Program, and I actually think the work of these young artists is even more outstanding!)

A duck stamp gives you free access to any National Wildlife Refuge that’s open to the public for an entire year.  You can purchase duck stamps at wildlife refuges, sporting good stores, many large department stores, the post office, and online.  I often buy annual auto passes to our local metropark system for friends for the holidays.  This year, I’m also going to include a duck stamp. Truly, a gift that keeps on giving.

Sandy October 3, 2005 at 10:35 am

I've seen a lot of migrating geese in the last week (see my blog for a picture). They fly so low over our backyard that we can hear their wings whooshing, if they're not honking too much.

Mark O'Brien October 3, 2005 at 12:03 pm

Now we need DRAGONFLY stamps!!

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