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Open Mic: The Case for the Duck Stamp

At the Mic: Nancy Hillstrand

Yesterday, June 27, marked the first day of sale of the 2014-2015 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.

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We as birders have an opportunity to help set aside prime habitat for birds by purchasing a Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp each year. Fully 98% of this purchase goes directly to wetlands, grasslands and other key habitats for our birds, expanding the National Wildlife Refuge System through purchases and easements. And, according to the Federal Duck Stamp Office, it’s not just for the ducks:

 “Among the birds directly benefiting from Duck Stamp revenues are waterbirds (e.g., western grebe, least bittern, yellow rail and black tern), shorebirds (e.g., black-necked stilt, American avocet, whimbrel, red knot and Wilson’s phalarope), raptors (e.g., swallow-tailed kite, Swainson’s hawk and golden eagle) and wetland-associated songbirds (e.g., vermilion flycatcher, sedge wren, prothonotary warbler, LeConte’s sparrow and tricolored blackbird).”

I am amazed at the opportunity before us. Imagine the positive impact that we, as birders with our huge numbers, can do for setting aside prime habitat. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, 18 million Americans can be defined as birders *.

A pile of Ducks Stamps at the ABA Office, ready for distribution to those who purchased through the ABA.

A pile of Ducks Stamps at the ABA Office, ready for distribution to those who purchased through the ABA.

If we all pledged to buy a stamp, in one year we would raise $ 270 million dollars, equal to about 30 percent of all the money (roughly $950 million dollars) raised in the 80 years of this program.

We, as birders, have long been at the center of efforts to protect birds and habitat:

“At the turn of the century, significant bird protection efforts arose to end the disturbing slaughter of birds. This was effectively the country’s first organized movement by individuals we generally know as “birders” today. The initial crisis in the 20th century bird conservation was addressed by the Lacy Act of 1900, the creation of Pelican Island in 1903 as the first Federal refuge in the country, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. These events effectively outlawed forever the indiscriminate killing of birds in this country, along with the use of their feathers for interstate trade.

A second bird-crisis emerged as a result of the over draining of wetlands, the degradation of prairie grasslands through increased mono-crop agriculture, and by cycles of over-harvesting of waterfowl on ever dwindling habitat. Along with the Dust Bowl of the depression years these events culminated in a drastic loss of waterfowl. An important step taken to address this crisis was the creation of the Federal Migratory Bird Stamp in the mid-1930’s, an action which sought to strengthen a National Refuge System in desperate need of support.”

                                    – USFWS Federal Duck Stamp Office

This system once again is in desperate need of our support. We started a legacy of protection of our migratory birds and we need to continue our direct on-the-ground support by purchasing an annual Migratory Bird Stamp each year. They are available on line through the ABA , from refuge offices, the post office and other sources (bird clubs, Friends groups, etc.) You can find more information about the Stamp and how to promote sales at A current stamp of the year also gives free entrance into any Wildlife Refuge that charges admission.

We have a responsibility to continue the job we started – to protect the birds that give us so much joy by setting aside nesting, rearing, wintering and stopover refuges. Those of us who know and love birds must step up and support them.

Birders to the rescue! As a badge of honor, those of us who know and love birds must annually pledge to step up to support them. Buy your Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp today!

* According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s December 2013 report, Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis Addendum to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, there are 47 million birdwatchers in the U.S., of which 41 million watch around their homes and 18 million were counted as birders. To be counted as a birder in this report, an individual must have either taken a trip one mile or more from home for the primary purpose of observing birds and/or closely observed or tried to identify birds around the home.


—Nancy Hillstrand lives in Homer, Alaska. 


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The ABA Blog's Open Mics offer an opportunity for members of the birding community to share their voice with the ABA audience. We accept all and any submissions. If you have something you'd like to share, please contact blog editor Nate Swick at [email protected]
  • threec

    I have been trying to find information on anything similar to the duck stamp that would pair grassland farmers with birders to the benefit of both. We are retiring dairy farmers with land adjacent to several housing developments. At this point in our lives, without making a great effort to count, we average over 70 species of birds on our land each year, many which nest here. Unless we are able to pass it down as a farm to our kids, this land will be under houses as soon as we let go of it. It seems like such a shame to lose all this good habitat because of the poor dairy economy. There are hundreds of abandoned or failing dairy farms in NY that could potentially provide thousands of acres of habitat.

  • joshua

    From the discussion on this at the New York Birders Facebook group:

    “Ducks Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, and Pheasant Forever are
    non government organizations which work with private landowners, he
    should talk to one of their “private lands biologists” or “farm bill
    biologists”. Since he is a farmer,
    I am sure this guy is familiar with the USDA Natural Resource
    Conservation Service, which has a office in every county. That office
    also has private land/farm bill biologists who can inform him about a
    number of private lands programs. Each state ( i.e. the NY DEC) has a
    “private lands biologist” or a “farm bill biologist” as well. These
    biologists work with private landowners. It is important to realize that
    the majority of wildlife habitat is in private ownership – therefore
    landowner cooperation is vital. The farmer indicates he would prefer
    that his farm does not become a housing development, and this is a
    familiar concern that fortunately is addressed in a variety of
    conservation programs, including the State and Tribal Nongame Wildlife
    Grant Program.”

    You might also look into conservation easements:

    • threec

      Thank you for these ideas. My husband and I will certainly look into them.

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