Federal duck stamps now available e-style

Washington. – Come Sept. 1, duck hunters in Minnesota and eight
other states will be allowed to purchase their federal duck stamp
(required of all waterfowl hunters over age 16) via the internet,
over the telephone, or from electronic license vendors across the
state. Its part of a three-year pilot project to study the
effectiveness of a new avenue for selling federal duck stamps.

Prior to this year, only a few select vendors in the state held
an inventory of federal duck stamps, which allowed hunters to
purchase them along with whatever other licenses desired.

Officials say the new system is intended to make purchasing a
federal duck stamp more convenient as well as accessible to
last-minute shoppers.

Theres technology now that allows for a convenience factor in
hunting and fishing, said Joshua Winchell, a spokesman for the Fish
and Wildlife Service. It allows for particular states to allow for
more complete one-stop shopping for hunting licenses.

Hunters, stamp collectors, and other conservationists who
purchase stamp validation electronically will receive a paper stamp
within 45 days, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
which coordinates the program. Immediately, theyll receive a proof
of purchase number.

This proof of purchase a unique code given to the purchaser
instantly will be accepted as evidence of a federal duck stamp
purchase for 45 days, time enough for the printed stamp to arrive
in the mail, a USFWS press release states.

In addition to being a requirement for waterfowl hunting, a
federal duck stamp also allows for free entry into any national
wildlife refuge in the country that charges an entry fee.

Federal officials are quick to point out that the pilot will not
eliminate the paper stamp, which has been synonymous with
waterfowling since the 1930s and has resulted in some of the finer
art United States wildlife artists have produced.

The biggest drawback so far has been people who love the (paper)
duck stamp who view (the e-stamp endorsement) as a replacement,
Winchell said. This simply is not the case.

The stamp is coming through the mail; its not going away, he
said.

The pilot program was approved by Congress and President Bush
about a year ago. The option to participate was open to a maximum
of 15 states. At that time, groups like Ducks Unlimited, as well as
wildlife artists themselves, had successfully lobbied Congress to
continue to issue paper stamps, in addition to the e-stamp
endorsement.

Don Young, DUs executive vice president, called the art
competition an American tradition that shouldnt be lost.

Wildlife artist Joe Hautman, a two-time federal duck stamp
contest winner (two of Hautmans brothers also have won the contest)
testified before Congress about the importance of the contest. He
said the duck stamp for hunters is a badge of honor; a symbol of a
hunters respect for the natural resources they are privileged to
use.

The federal duck stamp currently is available at most major
sporting goods stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses, at
most post offices, and via AMPLEX, the USFWS duck stamp fulfillment
center.

This pilot program explores one way to improve service to duck
stamp purchasers, in particular those from rural or remote areas,
Dale Hall, USFWS director, said in a press statement. We are always
looking for new ways to better serve the public, and enhance
wetland conservation.

In addition to Minnesota, the states of Wisconsin, New York,
Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, and Texas are
participating.

Karen Beckman, DNR License Center supervisor, said if
waterfowlers choose the more convenient E-route, theyll pay for it:
Instead of $15, hunters will pay $17 with $1 to pay AMPLEX for
fulfillment services and another $1 to pay for the electronic
transaction (Central Bank of Missouri).

Beckman said AMPLEX, the company in charge of mailing stamp
buyers the paper stamp, has pledged that customers names and other
information wont be used for any reason other that fulfillment of
obligation to distribute duck stamps.

Vendors still may carry a supply of the paper stamp, thereby
bypassing the middle man AMPLEX if they so choose, Beckman said.
Were not promoting one way versus the other, she said.

Since the federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp
the duck stamp came to be in 1934, Minnesota has sold 9.3 million
stamps to its hunters. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service,
about 1.6 million stamps were sold in 2005 (recent data); income
has been about $25 million. However, both stamp sales and duck
stamp income have varied over the years, often based on duck
numbers and anticipated hunting success. A high point in license
sales was achieved in the early 1970s, when more than 2.44 million
stamps were sold.

Officials say 98 percent of the money received from the $15
stamps is used to lease or buy wetland habitat for the National
Wildlife Refuge System. Since 1934, $671 million has been raised
for habitat conservation by way of duck stamps.

Winchell said not all states will have a system of E-purchasing
federal duck stamps in place by Sept. 1.

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