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You bagged a banded duck; now what?

Q.        I shot a mallard recently that had an aluminum band around its leg. How do I report it?

A.       To report the band, call toll-free to 1-800-327-2263 (BAND) or report online. You can keep the band, as most duck hunters want to do. The U.S. Geological Survey will send you a certificate that tells you when and where the bird was banded, if you give a mailing address.

Any species of waterfowl or other kinds of birds can be reported at the same site. You can also report colored plastic bands, such as numbered neck bands on snow geese and swans, and wing tags on white pelicans.

Biologists have been banding migratory birds for decades, to gather valuable information about migration. Banding also provides clues about waterfowl harvest levels, and the data are used to set waterfowl hunting seasons nationally.

—Idaho Fish and Game

Passage of Duck Stamp fee increase applauded by sportsmen

WETLANDS CONSERVATION — A bill that would increase the price of a federal Duck Stamp is headed for President Obama's desk — to the applause of organized sportsmen and conservation groups.

A bipartisan bill that would raise the price of a Duck Stamp from $15 to $25 and channel millions of dollars toward wetlands and other waterfowl habitat conservation passed the Senate today. Groups involving hunters who will have to dig deeper to pay the annual fee  have championed the measure all the way through Congress.

The Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 (S. 2621), introduced by Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, would increase the cost of a Duck Stamp, the annual permit required to hunt migratory waterfowl, for the first time since 1991. Today’s action follows a November vote by the House of Representatives to advance a companion bill (H.R. 5069), introduced by Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, that drew similarly broad bipartisan support.

“At a time when millions of acres of wildlife habitat are at risk of being lost forever, congressional approval of this bipartisan legislation is a critical boost for wetlands conservation,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “By restoring the lost purchasing power of the Federal Duck Stamp, this legislation will give us the opportunity to work with thousands of additional landowners across the nation to maintain vital habitat for waterfowl, grassland birds and hundreds of other native species.”

Ducks Unlimited backed the measure, as did the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which posted this reaction.

“For decades, duck hunters have proudly paid their own way,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh, “funding countless conservation initiatives all across the country that have helped increase duck numbers and improve wetland habitat. Yet we want to do more.

“The price of a Duck Stamp has not been increased since 1991,” Fosburgh continued. “During that time, the price of a first class U.S. postage stamp has increased 14 times. Duck hunters and waterfowl enthusiasts understand the importance of our Duck Stamp purchases, and we thank Congress for putting aside politics to pass this commonsense bill.”  

Since 1934, sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $800 million, resulting in the purchase or lease of more than 6 million acres of U.S. wetlands habitat as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System.

“This week’s actions represent a much-needed win for wetlands conservation, Prairie Pothole protection, the National Wildlife Refuge System and sportsmen’s interests,” said Steve Kline, TRCP director of government relations. “From a practical perspective, they also mean more ducks and better hunting seasons – as well as increased funds to expand and enhance access to places where waterfowlers can enjoy quality days afield.”  

Bill would raise duck stamp to $25

CONSERVATION — A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate today to increase the price of the federal duck stamp to $25. The current price of $15 was set more than 20 years ago, in 1991.

"We appreciate the introduction of a federal duck stamp increase bill by Senators Begich, Baucus, Coons and Tester to meet very real on-the-ground wetland habitat conservation needs," said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall in a statement supporting the action. "We are committed to seeing this legislation signed into law and look forward to working with Senators on both sides of the aisle to enact this."

Since its enactment in 1934, the federal duck stamp program has protected more than 6 million acres of wetlands – an area the size of Vermont – through expenditures of more than $750 million. This has contributed to the conservation of more than 2.5 million acres in the Prairie Pothole Region, including the protection of 7,000 waterfowl production areas totaling 675,000 acres.

Land values have drastically increased since the last price increase in the 1990s. In Minnesota, for example, land has increased from an average price of $400 to $1,400 an acre since 1998, an increase of 250 percent. While the duck stamp price remains stagnant, the cost to conserve land and habitats that host waterfowl and other species has increased dramatically.

At its current price, the buying power of the federal duck stamp has never been lower over its 79-year history, DU says. 

The Congressional Budget Office found that because the federal duck stamp is a user fee, such a price increase would have no net impact on federal spending.

"Once again, sportsmen and women have demonstrated their willingness to pay for conservation by supporting a long-overdue increase from $15 to $25. With 98 cents of every $1 from duck stamp receipts going to conserve wetlands habitat, it is vital that the cost of the stamp keep up with inflation and land acquisition costs," Hall said.

Congress may allow online Duck Stamp purchases nationwide

HUNTING — It looks as though Congress is going to make it easier for sportsmen to one-stop-shop for state and federal waterfowl hunting licenses. That's good news for the sport and for wetland habitats.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 373-1 recently to forward a bill that would allow hunters to buy their federal duck stamps online, similar to the way state hunting licenses can be purchased.

The e-Duck Stamp program started four years ago on a trial basis in eight states, including Idaho (but not Washington). The program allows hunters 16 and older to purchase temporary duck stamps online until their physical stamps arrive in the mail.

Prior to this pilot program, waterfowl hunters were required to buy federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, or duck stamps, at post offices and sporting goods stores. The trouble came when suppliers ran out of stamps early in the season or small rural post offices didn't carry the stamps at all.

If the U.S. Senate follows the overwhelming approval of the House vote, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have the authority to make the program permanent and extend it to all states.

The Federal Duck Stamp was created in 1934 as a federal waterfowl hunting license and a means to conserve waterfowl habitat. The program has generated more than $800 million to protect more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States, land now part of the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System. The stamps cost $15 per year, with 98 percent of revenue going straight to land purchases, easements and leases.

Veteran artist’s wood duck painting wins 2011-2012 Duck Stamp contest

WETLANDS CONSERVATION — Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., won the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Contest on Saturday with his acrylic painting of a single wood duck.

Hautman has previously won the contest three times, in 1991, 2001 and 2007. His art will be made into the 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale July 1, 2012.

The federal migratory bird stamp program has raised $750 million for wetlands conservation since its inception in 1934. The money has been used, among other things, to preserve 5 million acres of wetlands habitat important not only to ducks and geese, but also to a wide range of other wildlife.

See a video about the Duck Stamp Contest here.

I'll be writing more about the current status of the Duck Stamp program and why waterfowl hunters and other wildlife and wetlands cconservationists should be paying particularly close attention this year.