We think the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the “Duck Stamp,” has been under priced for far too long. Apparently some influential senators think so too.

Press Release, December 19, 2013

Legislation spearheaded by U.S. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska and co-sponsored by Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus of Montana and Chris Coons of Delaware would help make sure that Duck Stamps can still fulfill their original purpose: preserving wetland habitat.

Senate bill 1865 (S. 1865)  the Migratory Bird Habitat Investment and Enhancement Act would authorize the secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), in consultation with the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, to increase the price of the stamp from the current $15 up to $25 and consider an additional increase of up to $30 in five years. The price increase, the first since 1991, will compensate for lost purchasing power due to inflation and restore the effectiveness of the program.

In the Section 2, the “Findings” section of the bill it states:

(1)      Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (commonly known as `duck stamps’) were created in 1934 as Federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl;

(2)

(A) duck stamps are a vital tool for wetland conservation;
(B) 98 percent of the receipts from duck stamp sales are used to acquire important migratory bird breeding, migration, and wintering habitat, which are added to the National Wildlife Refuge System; and
(C) those benefits extend to all wildlife, not just ducks;

(3)      since its inception, the Federal duck stamp program has–

(A) generated more than $750,000,000;
(B) preserved more than 5,000,000 acres of wetland and wildlife habitat; and
(C) is considered among the most successful conservation programs ever initiated;

(4)

(A) since 1934, when duck stamps cost $1, the price has been increased 7 times to the price in effect on the date of enactment of this Act of $15, which took effect in 1991; and
(B) the price of the duck stamp has not increased since 1991, the longest single period without an increase in program history; and

(5)      with the price unchanged during the 20-year period preceding the date of enactment of this Act, duck stamps have lost 40 percent of their value based on the consumer price index, while the United States Fish and Wildlife Service reports the price of land in targeted wetland areas has tripled from an average of $306 to $1,091 per acre.

According to Ducks Unlimited which supports this bill, while the duck stamp price remains stagnant, the cost to conserve land and habitats that host waterfowl and other species has increased dramatically. At its current price, the buying power of the federal duck stamp has never been lower over its 79-year history. The Congressional Budget Office also found that because the federal duck stamp is a user fee, such a price increase would have no net impact on federal spending.

We not only support S.1865 but also an additional Wildlife Conservation Stamp to be enacted that would undoubtedly increase the funding for wetlands and other wildlife habitat. With 55 times more wildlife watchers than waterfowl hunters, financial support for our National Wildlife Refuges would be much more secure with an additional income stream generated by the Wildlife Conservation Stamp. In other words, there is a large and enthusiastic source of untapped revenue from wildlife watchers, one that could be rendered viable through this additional dedicated funding stream.

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