Federal Duck Stamps Financing the Destruction of Waterfowl Since 1934
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


Joe Miele, Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting (CASH)
January 2016

For each dollar spent on duck stamps, 98 cents are put into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which is used to purchase land and enhance habitat favorable to waterfowl and the hunters who want to kill them.

federal duck stamps

Having a thorough understanding of the operations of fish and wildlife agencies helps us be more effective in our opposition to hunting on both the local and national level, and heeding Sun Tzu's advice of "know thy enemy as you know yourself" makes our wildlife protection efforts more effective on every level. When our opposition to an effort or program is based on facts and knowledge, hunters are less able to write them off as nothing more than emotional reactions - a claim they love to throw at us.

In this article, we'll introduce you to duck stamps and explain what they are, where they came from, and where the money goes when hunters, non-hunting stamp collectors, and wildlife watchers purchase these stamps.

Federal Duck Stamps

Before hunters can legally blast away at ducks and other helpless waterfowl, they must first purchase a duck stamp. In most states, hunters need both a federal and state stamp, and these revenue-raising stamps must be signed by the hunter and affixed to his or her hunting license, to be shown to a conservation officer upon demand in order to prove that s/he is hunting legally. Duck stamps are at once works of art and licenses to kill.

The formal name of the federal duck stamp is the "Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp." It not only allows a hunter to legally hunt ducks, geese, and other waterfowl, but it may be used to gain free entrance to national wildlife refuges that normally charge admission fees. It is a collectible for those with philatelic (stamp collecting) interests and a significant source of revenue to bolster recreational hunting programs. For each dollar spent on duck stamps, 98 cents are put into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which is used to purchase land and enhance habitat favorable to waterfowl and the hunters who want to kill them.

federal duck stamps

federal duck stamps

This all started when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act on March 16, 1934. Before then, hunting waterfowl was largely unregulated and hunters killed millions of birds to sell meat to restaurants and feathers to the fashion industry. With hunting so unregulated, no organized or effective efforts were made to preserve the areas where wild waterfowl lived, and, as a result, millions of acres of wetlands were drained and converted to farmland and developed for housing or other purposes. Predictably, bird populations couldn't withstand this attack, so waterfowl numbers plummeted significantly. Since President Roosevelt signed the duck stamp act, more than $800 million dollars have gone into a fund that has been used to buy 5.3 million acres of wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System. In addition to being vital habitat for many species, wetlands help purify water, aid in flood control, and reduce soil erosion and sedimentation.

So while many of the national wildlife refuges have been paid for all or in part by duck-stamp money and millions of acres of wildlife habitat have been protected from development, there's always the "catch" that's involved when hunting agencies do anything. In this case, such habitat protection is merely a side effect of an effort that was enacted primarily to enable hunters to kill helpless ducks and other birds in perpetuity. As we've seen countless times, altruism is a foreign concept to hunters and hunting agencies.

Back in 1934 when duck stamps were first issued, 635,000 hunters bought them for only $1 each. The price of duck stamps has risen gradually over the years, and in 2014 President Obama signed a law that brought the cost of a duck Stamp to $25. President Obama's $10 increase in the cost of duck stamps was requested by the FWS to help offset revenue lost by the declining number of hunters nationwide. From a peak of 2.4 million duck stamps sold in 1970, sales have declined to only 1,517,647 for the 2011-2012 killing season. It's important to note that while duck hunters die or remove themselves from the sport, the FWS reports that more than 46 million Americans count themselves as birdwatchers and this clearly shows that the hobby of wildlife watching has the potential to raise significantly more revenue for habitat protection and wildlife preservation than hunting can.

Duck stamps are a good example of how the non-hunting public helps finance the recreational killing promoted by "conservation" agencies and organizations. Wildlife watchers, birders, nature photographers, and stamp collectors buy duck stamps to further their hobbies and investments and in so doing finance the destruction of the very animals they appreciate viewing.

Duck Stamps as Art

Each year, the FWS holds a competition to find the design for a future stamp, making the federal duck-stamp contest the only federally legislated art competition in the country. Artists submit their original work along with an entry fee (this year's fee was $125) to the FWS, and their work is viewed by a panel of five judges who will choose the design that ends up on the stamp. The judges chosen by FWS must have the one or more of the following prerequisites: recognized art credentials; knowledge of the anatomical makeup and the natural habitat of waterfowl; an understanding of waterfowl hunting culture; an awareness of philately and the role of duck stamps in stamp collecting; and demonstrated support for waterfowl hunting through active involvement in the conservation community. As you can see, even the judges of an art contest must be apologists for sport hunting if they want to have any involvement in the protection of waterfowl habitat through the FWS.

The foxes are clearly guarding the hen house.

The artist who submits the winning design will receive publicity and media recognition, and will be given a pane of stamps signed by the secretary of the interior. S/he will also travel and be recognized as a guest speaker at national waterfowl festivals and wildlife art events (where hunting is no doubt promoted as the primary form of conservation). The winner can choose to further his/her art career by marketing their works as "by the federal duck stamp artist." Other than these perks, the artist receives no compensation for his/her work. Duck stamps are collectibles, and have increased in value over the years. Original duck stamps from the first years of issue command hundreds of dollars at auction, and selling prices at auction for the original artwork the stamps have been made from has topped $10,000.

Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Ducks Unlimited; Ebay; Brookman Stamp Company.

Visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's propaganda page.

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