The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to change the Duck Stamp program by requiring that the picture for the stamp include features of waterfowl hunting, such as decoys or hunting dogs. While this change is intended to celebrate the heritage of hunting, I am concerned that it could result in lost revenue and support for the Duck Stamp program.
Duck Stamps were established in 1934 as a way to support the National Wildlife Refuge Program. Since that time, it has generated over $1.1 billion used to acquire more than 6 million acres as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, including over 26,000 acres on the Eastern Shore. Each year, an annual contest is held to select the picture for the annual duck stamp. The artwork must include a waterfowl species as the dominant feature, but also allows optional features such as hunting dogs or decoys to be included. Judges review thousands of entries annually and select the best one to adorn that year’s duck stamp.
Under the proposed changes, artists will now be required to include features related to a hunting theme. I’m concerned that this subtle change may threaten to divide the coalition that supports the Duck Stamp program. Hunters have done a great deal for conservation over the last century; however, duck stamps are no longer just for hunters. As the number of hunters has declined over the last few decades, so have the number of duck stamps sold. Meanwhile, duck stamps purchased by non-hunters, including birders and photographers, have increased, helping offset part of this decline. Currently, about 25 percent of duck stamps are purchased by non-hunters, with many birding and conservation groups promoting duck stamps as a way to support the refugee program.
Many hunters enjoy birding and photography, just as many birders and photographers enjoy hunting. Yet, this proposed change implies that duck stamps are only about hunting and for hunters. It could cause duck stamp sales to drop, meaning fewer dollars to protect land for hunters and non-hunters alike. Let’s keep this coalition of support unified and keep the Duck Stamp program as it is.
You can comment on the proposed change by going to http://www.regulations.gov and search for docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0105. Comments must be submitted by March 16, 2020.