The 2017-2018 Federal Migratory Bird Stamp was unveiled last week. The artwork for this stamp was created by James Hautman, an artist from Chaska, Minnesota. His painting of Canada geese is the artist’s fifth win in the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. His previous works were featured on the 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2011 stamps. The design was chosen from 15 other finalists.
It is commonly called the “duck stamp”, but it is not really a stamp at all, at least not for postal delivery. Even though it is produced by the U.S. Postal Service, it is not valid for use as postage to send a letter or package.
The Duck Stamp is actually a federal license requirement for hunting migratory waterfowl, and serves as an entry permit to any national wildlife refuge that charges a fee. Not many people know that about the stamp.
It all started in 1934 as a simple hunting permit but has turned into one of the most efficient and successful conservation tools that has ever existed. It is the model for many other endeavors that aim to conserve wildlife.
In today’s world where you hear about the abuses of organizations supposedly collecting money for a “good cause”, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) comes to mind, 98 cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of the Federal Migratory Bird Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The Federal Duck Stamp Program may be the most successful conservation program model ever devised. This stamp has generated more than $950 million which has been used to purchase or lease some six million acres of wetland habitat in the United States.
Not only waterfowl reap the benefits accorded by this stamp/program. Countless other game and non-game species…birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians that live in wetland environments continue to thrive because of the lands acquired through this program. One third of the nation's endangered and threatened species find food or shelter in refuges established using Federal Migratory Bird Stamp money.
J.N. "Ding" Darling designed the very first federal Duck Stamp in 1934. In 1949, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started sponsoring a stamp-design contest featuring wildlife artists from across the country. That contest continues to this day.
It is still the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government. Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selects five species for artists to choose from. Artists must submit a painting using one of the birds on the list. The winning art from each competition is then used on the next year's stamp.
All waterfowl hunters must purchase one of these stamps each year to be able to hunt ducks and geese. A Federal Migratory Bird Stamp currently costs $25 and is available at your nearest post office. Stamps may also be purchased online, at many national wildlife refuges, sporting goods stores and through Nebraska Game and Parks Commission offices.
Even if you aren’t a hunter, I would urge you to buy one of the stamps to promote the program and fund the good work that it does. I would also challenge groups like HSUS to match the funds generated by the Federal Migratory Bird Stamp program. That would be a lot more productive than the money they spend on law suits and lobbying efforts that deal with how animals are raised or boycotting chain restaurants because they don’t like where they get their meat.
I only wish the rest of our government ran as efficiently as the Migratory Bird Stamp program. Go buy a stamp or a reprint. The art is absolutely magnificent and you can get a large print that would look great in any den or office.