Waterfowl groups OK with duck stamp hike

Springfield – The cost of a duck stamp could rise from $15 to
$25 under the 2009 federal budget proposed in Washington.

The increase, which has support from conservation groups such as
Delta Waterfowl, and Ducks Unlimited, would be the first hike for
the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp since
1991.

Both national waterfowl organizations also are urging Congress
to pass the Emergency Wetlands Loan Act, which will help secure
even more dollars for habitat important to ducks and duck
hunters.

Number crunchers with DU pointed out that a $15 stamp in 1991 is
worth less than $10 in 2008 dollars and when adjusted for
inflation, the stamp price would today cost $23.74.

In 2007, more than 1.6 million duck stamps were sold nationwide,
raising roughly $24.2 million.

In Illinois, a total of 4.91 million federal ducks stamps have
been purchased since 1934. Projects that have benefited include the
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and the Chautauqua National
Wildlife Refuge.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials who’ve studied the
proposal, the increased revenue – projected at about $14 million
annually – would help restore critical habitat for migratory
waterfowl. More specifically, the increased funding would “allow
for acquisition of an estimated 6,800 additional acres of migratory
bird habitat and secure easements for 10,000 additional wetlands
per year across the nation,” the Fish and Wildlife Service
announced.

“The time has come to the raise the price of the duck stamp to
meet the many habitat challenges facing ducks, but particularly
those on the prairie breeding grounds,” Delta Waterfowl Senior Vice
President John Devney said in a written statement. “If we’re
serious about producing more ducks, we need to leverage as many
dollars for the Prairie Pothole Region as possible. Increasing the
price of the duck stamp would be a good start.”

Devney added that, while it’s important to protect waterfowl
habitat across the country, the goal should be to raise more ducks,
and to do that more dollars need to be allocated to the prairie
breeding grounds.

Devney said he also believes waterfowlers will overwhelmingly
support an increase, especially if more money is earmarked for the
duck factory.

“Based on my conversations with Delta members and other duck
hunters, the consensus is they support an increase in the duck
stamp,” he said. “Duck hunters realize what’s at stake, that we
need to protect the breeding grounds.”

The loss of critical waterfowl breeding habitat in the Prairie
Pothole Region, Devney said, is being driven by record-high
commodity prices, soaring land values and increased demand for
biofuels like corn-based ethanol.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of Conservation Reserve
Program acres and native grasslands are being converted for
agriculture production.

In 2007, for example, roughly 820,000 CRP acres were lost in the
Dakotas and Montana – prime waterfowl-breeding states.

New numbers released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show
that contracts on roughly 5.6 million CRP acres will expire by
October 2012. That’s roughly two-thirds of the current CRP acreage
in the Dakotas and Montana.

Along with raising the price of the federal duck stamp, another
pressing issue in Washington is Congress passing the Emergency
Wetlands Loan Act, which would advance roughly $400 million in duck
stamp sales to the USFWS to protect critical waterfowl habitat.

“The Emergency Wetlands Loan Act is our best chance to save
nesting cover and small wetlands on large scale on the breeding
grounds,” said Devney, who also noted that the price of doing
conservation work in the Prairie Pothole Region has skyrocketed in
recent years. “It’s a critical piece of legislation that deserves
the support of hunters and lawmakers alike.”

Fate of the proposed duck stamp increase and the Emergency
Wetlands Loan Act may not be known for some time. The timeline for
Congress to move the federal budget forward can take months.

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