Washington. — Though as of Michigan Outdoor News press time President Barack Obama hadn’t made it official, national conservation organizations consider it a foregone conclusion that following Senate approval earlier this month of a price increase for the federal duck stamp, its passage is just a matter of time.
After the Senate OK’d a $10 increase in the price of the $15 stamp that’s required of all waterfowlers age 16 and older, a number of those conservation groups proclaimed victory. It had been, after all, several years since the initial efforts to increase the price of the stamp, used to purchase or lease land for conservation dating back to 1934. The cost of the stamp, though, hadn’t been raised since 1991.
“During that time, the price of a first-class U.S. postage stamp has increased 14 times,” Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said in a press release. “Duck hunters and waterfowl enthusiasts understand the importance of our duck stamp purchases, and we thank Congress for putting aside politics to pass this common-sense bill.”
The release noted that since its inception, stamp sales have raised more than $800 million for habitat conservation.
Ducks Unlimited called Senate passage of the Duck Stamp Act of 2014 “a major win victory for wetlands and waterfowl conservation …”
“With the assistance of Sen. David Vitter and his leadership in helping pass the Duck Stamp Act of 2014, much-needed funding has been secured for wetlands and waterfowl conservation,” Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall said in a release. “The additional duck stamp funding provided by waterfowl hunters and other conservationists will not only conserve critical waterfowl habitat, but will also help ensure the future of our waterfowling traditions.”
Closer to home, Chris Simpson, president of the Michigan Duck Hunters Association, was elated with the increase.
“It’s a great thing,” Simpson told Michigan Outdoor News. “We were overdue for an increase. The duck stamp program has done more to save habitat across the country than any other conservation program out there.”
There has been some concern that the recent legislation directs new dollars to be spent on conservation easements; fee title spending isn’t allowed. Simpson believes it’s still a pretty good deal.
“A lot of time people argue the fact that some of the money goes into private land,” Simpson said. “Of course, we all want more public access, but overall I think it will be a good use of the money. Protection of habitat is probably more important than providing more access right now.”
Largely, federal duck stamp dollars have been used from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund for National Wildlife Refuge System purchases, including waterfowl production areas – places where waterfowl except in certain instances may be hunted.
Some wildlife managers have raised issues regarding upkeep and management of wetlands on private lands. There will be costs associated with retaining productive wetlands, although easements have been touted as having little to no future costs.
Others point out that, even if some North Dakota landowners – where habitat dollars often are spent – wish to sell land for conservation purposes, state law often makes it a difficult to impossible proposition.
And, adds Eric Lindstrom, Ducks Unlimited government affairs representative in an email exchange, “The current Congress and political climate doesn’t have much of an appetite for increased fee title acquisitions, so this was a compromise that still provides those (easements and purchases), while increasing funding support for private lands conservation.”
Ducks produced on private wetlands, some have said, will make there way to places where waterfowlers are able to hunt.
Editor Bill Parker contributed to this story.