Ducks have a new friend in town. It is the Friends of the Duck Stamp.
This friends group is an independent, non-profit group devoted to the promotion, preservation, sale and better understanding of the Federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp, better known as the Duck Stamp.
Paul Baicich, group president, said that the “friends” is unlike any other refuge friends group that people might already know about.
“Instead of connecting with one national wildlife refuge, or wetland management complex, it connects with any landscape secured through stamp funding,” Baicich said.
“This group advocates the growth of the refuge system through the sale and promotion of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, funding that, to date, has helped build 249 refuges in the system.”
The Duck Stamp began in 1934, the brainchild of the late Ding Darling, to provide funds to purchase land for national wildlife refuges and later for waterfowl production areas. The stamp is required of every waterfowl hunter age 16 and older, and has raised more than $750 million and protected 5.3 million acres for wildlife and future generations.
Like the Duck Stamp, this group is not just for duck and goose hunters. The Duck Stamp and the organization should be of interest to all hunters, bird watchers, photographers, environmental educators, and anyone who enjoys wildlife and wild places.
The Duck Stamp has helped to preserve habitat for many wildlife species. Anyone who enjoys watching cranes, shorebirds, seeing dragonflies and hearing frogs has a vested interest in continuing the legacy of this special stamp.
In Wisconsin, Duck Stamps were responsible for buying land for Horicon and Necedah national wildlife refuges, plus many waterfowl production areas in southern and western counties. The stamp also allows entrance to any national wildlife refuges that charge an admission fee.
But Baicich thinks the stamp is under-appreciated. There used to be more than 2 million stamps sold nationally, and in recent years that number has slipped to about 1.6 million.
More people need to realize the importance of the stamp, especially as government budgets shrink.
It is imperative that more non-hunters and bird watchers buy the stamp.
“For far too long waterfowl hunters have borne most of the burden of sustaining the life of the stamp,” Baicich said. “This stamp can build bridges between birders, wildlife conservationists, hunters, stamp collectors, educators, and wildlife photographers.”
Ric Zarwell, a member of the friends group from Lansing, Iowa, said that many non-hunters don’t realize that they may buy the stamp, mistakenly thinking that only hunters could buy it. The Duck Stamp may be purchased by anyone at just about every post office, and at many sporting goods stores.
The Duck Stamp is a bargain at just $15 and the new stamp for 2012-13, featuring a beautiful drake wood duck by Joe Hautman, went on sale in June. People may also buy the stamp online by going to www.fws.gov/duckstamps.
Membership in the Friends group, which is tax exempt, has several levels starting at a modest $15 and members show real support by pledging that they will buy two Duck Stamps per year. Members will receive newsletters and updates by e-mail.
To apply for a membership go to: www.friendsofthestamp.org or write: Friends of the Migratory Bird Duck Stamp, P.O. Box 2143, Columbia, MD 21045.
Conservation groups that would like to schedule a visual presentation about Ding Darling, the Duck Stamp, and see how the stamp is selected, should contact the author (a judge for the 1995-96 Duck Stamp) at email@example.com.