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    Make Birders Count: Buy Your Duck Stamp Through the ABA

    It cannot be denied that the Duck Stamp, formally called the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, is a wonderfully effective conservation program. It also cannot be denied that many birders have been hesitant to go all-in on this conservation tool for understandable reasons. Some birders find waterfowl hunting distasteful and don’t want to feel as though they’re supporting it. But mostly, it is the concern that the numbers of non-consumptive users of National Wildlife Refuges are not tallied, and the true support of birders for habitat and bird conservation is not accurately assessed.

    We use refuges, too. We are proud to support them. We want a seat at the table, too, alongside our friends in the hunting community because in the end, our common goals of habitat protection and healthy bird populations far outweigh the little that divides us.

    The ABA is hoping to begin solving that problem by offering the Duck Stamp through our own shop. By purchasing your Duck Stamp through the ABA you are making a statement that you want to be counted. We all know that birders have, first and foremost, the interests of all species of birds in mind. The total number of Duck Stamps purchased through the ABA should offer a more complete assessment of the total impact birders have on conservation initiatives. It’s a bonus that the Duck Stamp offers the best bang for your buck of any conservation initiative in North America.

    484-duck-stamp

    This is not a fund-raiser for the ABA. We are not seeking to make any money doing this. What we want from this effort is an accounting of birders, not just in numbers but in dollars and cents. And we know from countless members and friends that this is what birders want, too.

    Duck Stamps officially go on sale on June 27th, but you can purchase them ahead of time at our shop and it will be sent to you that day. Don’t just feel like you need to stop at one, either. Duck stamps make fantastic gifts for birders, young and old. You can use them as birthday or holiday gifts or bird clubs can sell them during their monthly meetings. Consider them for end-of-year appreciation gifts for bird club field trip leaders or awards for birders who go above and beyond. The possibilities are nearly endless.

    Note that the images show the 2013 stamp. The 2014 version, that birders will receive, is embargoed until the release on 6/27.

    We hope that you will help us. In doing so, you will not only help the birds that use National Wildlife Refuges, but we birders who care to have a voice about them.

    So purchase a Duck Stamp through the ABA. Be counted.

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    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
    Nate Swick

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    • Terry Bronson

      A fair number of ABA members are hunters. Is there a mechanism in place to identify how many of those purchasing the duck stamp through the ABA are hunters and how many are not? Without such a mechanism, the number of sales cannot with any accuracy be justified as sales to non-hunters.

      • Liz Gordon

        Put a note in the order form. I’ll make sure you are counted as both!

    • Ann Johnson

      Terry, certainly a fair number of birders in general are also hunters. I don’t see this as an either/or proposition but simply an opportunity for birders to be counted as supporters of our National Wildlife Refuges. There are many other ways to purchase a duck stamp if someone doesn’t want to be included in that number. The important thing is the support.

      • http://aba.org Jeffrey Gordon

        Right on, Ann! The goal is to sell MORE stamps in total and thus protect MORE acres of habitat for hunters, birders, and the birds. Terry, I have a suggestion/challenge for you, if you’re truly concerned about undercounting hunters. You are a birder/hunter: why not buy a stamp from the ABA, and also buy one from your local Bass Pro shop, ammo store, etc? $15 is not much money compared to other expenditures we make on our outdoor recreation and that extra stamp will make a great present for someone.

        • Terry Bronson

          Jeff,

          Apparently my initial post was unclear. I am NOT a hunter and have never been one. My concern was that purchases of the stamp through the ABA by hunter/birders would distort or make it impossible to determine with any accuracy how many of the stamps were purchased by birders who are not hunters.

          The larger issue, however, is the subsidy of hunters by non-hunters, which I very much oppose. Why should my money be used to help purchase habitat in so-called “refuges”, which are in reality just hunting areas open to other uses, so that hunters can go out and kill the wildlife that has supposedly found a “refuge” there? It just doesn’t make sense.

          I would wholeheartedly support a wildlife conservation stamp that is used to purchase and protect habitat that is truly a “refuge”–i.e., where hunting is not allowed. This idea has been suggested many times in many forums, but it never seems to go anywhere. If the ABA would sponsor such a stamp, then I’d be happy to purchase one.

          • http://blog.aba.org/ Nate Swick

            Not intending to speak for Jeff or the ABA, but my sense is that while in theory many birders would support the “Wildlife Conservation Stamp” (I’m one of them), we actually don’t know for sure how successful it would be.

            The first step towards determining how that would work would be to get a better accounting of how many birders purchase the Duck Stamp, and by selling it through the ABA we can begin to do that.

            This is not in any way movement away from the Wildlife Conservation Stamp idea, but actually a move *towards* it.

    • Ann Nightingale

      This is a great idea! There are also some folks who may want to purchase their stamps locally for a variety of reasons but may still want to be counted among the birders. In discussing this with Jim Danzenbaker, he wondered if there was a way for birders to self-report their duck stamp purchases to the ABA for counting in the birder total.

    • Terry Liddick

      There are a couple really technical issues with this article that should be corrected, and I think they really are important and DO matter. First, starting with the opening sentence. It was never officially called the Duck Stamp. It was originally called the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp. In 1976, the name was changed to the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. It has been referred to as the “Duck Stamp” for many years because it is generally used to legally be able to hunt ducks.

      Secondly, I find NO understandable reason why birders are or ever have been hesitant to go all in on this important conservation tool, because it IS just that, a conservation tool. But birders, particularly exclusive birders, that is, non-hunters and anti-hunters alike, cannot and should not overlook the fact that it was hunters who implemented the stamp and made it the success that it is in implementing the National Wildlife Refuge System.

      Third, counting, or tallying to get your voice, is exactly what drives the wedge between the two groups, that should most definitely be in this all together. We already know how many hunters by the stamp through the HIP program and by other means. What you need to know is how many birders vs. art/stamp collectors are buying the stamp. And if you are a hunter and birder, like myself, it doesn’t matter how you are counted, the fact remains you are already committed to buying the stamp and assisting with migratory bird conservation.

      If you are a birder and don’t wish to buy the stamp because hunters buy the stamp, well then, I think you need to more closely examine the history of the stamp and maybe aren’t really serious about conservation after all.

      I say quit worrying about what camp you are in and buy the stamp and continue the proud accomplishments and legacy that this stamp has provided for conservation.

      • http://aba.org Jeffrey Gordon

        Terry,

        I appreciate that you are comfortable in both camps. That’s wonderful. But I think you simply have to accept that not everyone is. And the fundamental goal of this effort by the ABA is not a strictly accurate census of all the birders who buy stamps–that would be nice, but that’s simply not going to happen, for a number of reasons. The fundamental goal is to INCREASE the overall number of stamps sold and acres of habitat preserved and to give the birding community something to feel good about, as well as demonstrate that we are and want to be an important voice in the conservation community. There’s nothing anti-hunter or ahistorical about any of that. We at the ABA *like* the stamp. But that doesn’t mean we can’t see ways to make things even better.

        Think about it: optics manufacturers know that both hunters and birders buy their products. And they actively market to both those groups. But they don’t do so in the same way. They run hunting ads in hunting markets and birding ads in birding ones. That’s not because they favor one over the other, or are trying to “drive a wedge,” they’re worried about selling as many units as possible. As conservationists, we should all worry about the bottom line, too.

        I hear that you are happy with the status quo. Again, wonderful. You are free to keep supporting that status quo, as you have been for a long time now. But ask yourself what your fundamental goal is: is it maintaining tradition or is it preserving the most habitat? If it’s the latter, I invite you to reconsider supporting this effort to reach out to a newer, broader audience, one that may support many of the same goals you do, but doesn’t exactly share your sense of identity.

        Good birding and good hunting to you!

        • Terry Liddick

          Jeffrey,

          I think you may have misinterpreted what I was saying. I am ALL for selling more stamps and I don’t care who buys them. I was merely stating that I disagree with how you proposed it, including the inaccuracies about the name of the stamp. But I do believe as soon as you start proposing giving a voice or counting numbers, whether you wish to or not, you are forming sides. That should not even be a thought when it comes to conservation. I was merely suggesting that if you wish to promote the purchase of the stamp, you should have more heavily emphasized its’ success, it’s conservation importance and its’ history. By not emphasizing that, if it’s just the conservation aspect you are after, you should be encouraging all birders to buy shotguns and ammunition to contribute to the Feral Aide to Wildlife Restoration Act, also known as Pittman-Robertson Act, as that money is equally important to conservation. The conservation success story of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp should be enough to convince most people, regardless of their outdoor pursuits, to purchase the stamp. By not including the history of the stamp, or at least a link to the web page that tells the story, I think misses the boat a little. Birders, non-birders, hunters, non-hunters should all be willing to buy the stamp and I think all groups miss the boat and do a poor job by not telling the story. I am certainly not happy with the status quo and have never understood why we only sell ~1 million stamps annually for what is arguably the most successful conservation program of all time.

          • Greg Neise

            Terry, I think you need to direct your complaint to the USFWS:

            http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/

          • http://aba.org Jeffrey Gordon

            Thanks for the clarification. I do appreciate what you’re saying. I also think that you’re seriously underestimating the amount of PR effort that has been put into “telling the story” as you say. I’ve certainly heard the story over and over and over, as I think a lot of birders have. I think it’s a good story. But again, not everyone is moved by it.

            When I hear the arguments you are making–and I’ve heard them many, many times–I can’t help being reminded a little of parents telling their kids that they should like the music that was popular when the parents were kids. That was real music–the stuff today is just noise. We all know how well that goes.

            History is great. It’s vital. But every generation, every team, every tribe wants its own music, its own rituals, its own voice. That doesn’t mean they want to destroy the other generations. They just want to be heard on their own terms. It’s human nature.

          • Mike Clarke

            I, for one, generally agree with Larry’s response, but I would add that birder’s have a tendency to want to support and advocate for management practices at the NWRs that don’t always favor game species over other species (shorebirds, songbirds, etc). Birder’s have felt for decades that they don’t have a seat at the table when these management decisions are made.

            At times management decisions that are made in the interest of supporting healthy habitat for migrating ducks are at odds with management practices that are good for migrating shorebirds. These differences can be worked out in management practices, of course, but this won’t happen if the other side of the coin isn’t recognized because of the perception that NWRs are for hunting first and foremost and that they are paid for strictly by hunters.

            I agree that driving a wedge is harmful. I think birders in general are just looking for a little recognition of their voices and their conservation interests.

    • Greg Johnson

      I think the sale of Duck
      Stamps by the ABA is a great idea! The
      number of hunters is declining significantly as America becomes more urbanized
      and kids are consumed by organized sports and computer games. Duck Stamp sales have declined by 36%, from
      an average of 2,186,556 stamps sold per year during the 1970s to an average of
      1,391,569 sold per year during the period 2004-2008. This has resulted in the loss of
      approximately $9 million in conservation funding per year, not adjusted for
      inflation (see http://news.wildlife.org/twp/2013-summer/as-waterfowl-hunters-decline/
      for a full analysis of this topic). Therefore,
      it is imperative that non-consumptive wildlife users take up some of this slack
      to ensure that acquisition of important wildlife habitat that both birders and
      hunters cherish can continue. I am one of those ABA members who also
      hunts. My passion for birds started through
      hunting with my father as a youngster, but quickly blossomed into birding, which
      I have pursued since I was in Junior High. I have since birded on every
      continent but Antarctica and have a life list of over 2,000 species, yet I
      anticipate the start of pheasant season with as much fervor as I do preparing
      for my next international birding trip.
      Hunters and birders have much in common and I encourage everyone to work
      together to conserve wildlife habitat.
      Purchasing a Duck Stamp is a great start in this effort.

    • Susan Smith

      Would love to purchase a duck stamp via ABA but the shippng charges to send me a stamp are absolutly absurd!!!! I will do as I have done in the past and buy at my local post office. Not seekng to make money? Really? If you want birders to be counted, the cost of a forever stamp to mail me my purchase will get the job done.

      • http://aba.org Jeffrey Gordon

        Susan, I appreciate that $4.95 may seem high. If the program proves popular, we’ll plow any “profit” back into making the program even more successful (and if possible reducing Shipping & Handling fees) in 2015 and beyond. But let me make a couple of points that may help explain the fee we’re charging now.

        1. If we send you a Duck Stamp and only charge you for postage and envelope to mail it in, the ABA will most certainly lose money, effectively paying you to buy one. While I would love to be able to do just that, it would be financial suicide.

        For every stamp we send out, there are significant costs beyond the postage and envelope. There is quite a bit of staff time, not just in processing orders, but setting up and maintaining web pages, answering questions, and especially, promoting the program. For example, the card we had designed and bound in to the current Birder’s Guide to Conservation & Community cost us a couple grand, for starters. The social media support for the program will certainly run into dozens or hundreds of hours. Even though we pay very modest fees for promotion compared to many for-profit companies, this all still adds up to a significant chunk of change.

        Yes, the USPS is able to sell the stamp for less. The USPS is also a) huge, b) regularly in the business of selling stamps, and c) by some reckonings, relatively well-funded. The ABA is none of these things. Of course it costs us more per stamp to sell them.

        2. $4.95 is actually less than you’ll pay for S&H from some other online order sources. And for that $5, you can get up to 5 stamps, thus only $1 a piece, if you can throw in with some birding friends through a local bird club, etc.

        There is undeniable convenience in having the stamp arrive at your door, as well. Many people don’t make regular trips to the post office, and many don’t have a convenient local source of Duck Stamps. For a lot of those folks, $5 could be a pretty darn good deal.

        3. This whole endeavor is a huge unknown for us. We might sell 5000 stamps, we might only sell 5.* We’re simply not in a position to lose thousands of dollars testing it out. If you would love to purchase a duck stamp via the ABA as you say, perhaps you could look at part of the $5 fee as a vote of confidence in the program continuing into the future? As I say, once we see how the program does, we’ll do whatever we can to reduce S&H in 2015 and beyond.

        4. We’re currently kicking around ways to offer birders who buy Duck Stamps elsewhere a social media venue to show their birder support for habitat protection. Stay tuned on that front. As I’ve said elsewhere, the fundamental goals of this program are to protect more bird and birding habitat, and to give birders a stronger voice and better public image. We are not in this one to make money. But again, we simply cannot afford to lose it.

        If you have any leads on potential sponsors, or some creative way we could cut costs involved in running the program, we’re all ears. Please get in touch with me in the comments here, or by email at [email protected]

        Thanks for your support of the overall concept, Susan, even if you think the S&H fee is too high. I’ll close with a question: in light of what I’ve said above, what do you think would be a reasonable S&H fee; i.e., one you would happily pay, or at least not balk at?

        Thanks for commenting!

        • John Workman

          Thanks for explaining the shipping and handlling fees. For me, it’s well worth the price not to have to drive over and stand in line at the post office or at the local hunting store.

          Selling the “Duck Stamp” through the ABA is a great idea, and a great way for birders to contribute to a proven, highly effective federal conservation program.

          At the same time, doing this through the ABA gives our organization a better shot at (pun intended) demonstrating our strength through numbers.

        • Joel Geier

          Jeffrey, thanks for explaining the cost. I did wince at the $4.95 cost but bought my stamp through ABA today, because I feel it’s very important to start tracking the number of birders who buy Duck Stamps.

          In order to have a way of counting birders like Susan who plan to continue to buy their stamps at the post office: Has ABA considered setting up a “Duck Stamp registration” web page, where birders can register their stamp purchases?

          This idea could be extended to state-level conservation stamp programs as well, to give a more full account of birders’ voluntary contributions to conservation via these programs.

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    • Tony Jones

      I was planning on purchasing my duck stamps through ABA this year, but when I went to the website, I couldn’t see that the junior stamp was available. Since it is dedicated to conservation education, it would seem to be a no brainer to have it available along with the main duck stamp. Besides its gorgeous. :) I’d rather buy through the ABA, even with its $4.95 shipping, but only if I can buy both stamps, else I’ll probably buy them somewhere else. In that event, is there someone at ABA that I can notify that I purchased duck stamps so that my voice can still be counted amongst the non-hunting people willing to pay for successful conservation?

    • Deb P

      I purchased one via ABA because I want to be counted as a non-consumptive user. Does anyone know if I can purchase the Junior stamp here too? I can’t see it listed in the store.

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    • Joel Geier

      I’m happy to see this initiative by ABA, and just purchased my 2014-15 Duck Stamp via this link today.

      Will ABA be posting a tally of the number of birders who purchase their stamps by this method? That would be useful information for many conservation discussions.

      Thanks for this initiative. I look forward to seeing the results.

    • Joel Geier

      I agree that a Wildlife Conservation Stamp would be a desirable alternative for non-hunting birders and other wildlife watchers, and could bring in additional birders who object to being lumped in with hunters.

      However, there’s a bit of a Catch-22 in asking government agencies to set up any new stamp or permit program. Before they’ll agree to do this, they want to see the size of the revenue stream. But until the stamp or permit is available, it’s difficult to demonstrate a market. We’ve run into this with proposals for both birding “access permits” and bird-conservation license plates in Oregon.

      The ABA’s initiative will produce some firm data on the numbers of birders who are willing to support bird conservation by purchasing a federal stamp — not just poll numbers, but actual purchases. That seems like an essential step toward demonstrating that a Wildlife Conservation Stamp could be worth the effort and expense that USFWS would need to spend, to launch a new stamp program.

    • http://www.conservationbenchmarks.com/ Whitney Tilt

      Bravo for ABA to promote duck stamps. Hopefully this is not an anti-hunting move as hunters have been responsible for 90% and more of the duck stamp purchases and the resulting purchase of wetland habitat. They are also behind the success of the North American Waterfowl Plan. Join them, for habitat, don’t fight them.

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