Big flap brewing over future of the duck stamp

The duck stamp community is outraged that the federal government is moving to allow upstarts to swoop in on the $25 stamp required of waterfowl hunters, the New York Times reports.

Each year, artists submit portraits of waterfowl in the wild and one is selected for the stamp, the money from which is used to protect waterfowl habitat.

Last September, Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, won the artistic competition for the artwork on the stamp that goes on sale in June.

Artwork by Joe Hautman. Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Not a pretender in sight.

Now, the Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the portraits include other species that aren’t hunted, migratory waterfowl as a way to gin up interests from birders in the stamps.

“Birders aren’t going to go out and buy a duck stamp because it has a little oriole on it,” Adam Grimm, an artist in South Dakota, tells the Times. He’s won the annual competition twice.

Everyone seemed to benefit. Hunters were happy to buy duck stamps because they supported prime locations for their migratory prey. Many bird-watchers bought them because the marshes and waterways saved for waterfowl also provide crucial habitat for migrating songbirds and shorebirds, not to mention resident frogs and otters. And the stamps became collectors’ items in their own right.

Still, the vast majority are purchased by the 1.1 million waterfowl hunters who must do so. Annual sales of duck stamps have hovered around 1.5 million, compared with two million in the 1970s.

“The population of duck hunters, our main customers, is declining and aging,” said Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “So we need to look at diversifying the customer base for the duck stamp.”

“We don’t want to change the tradition of the stamp,” said Paul J. Baicich, the president of The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, which is pushing for the change. “We just want to add to it. To put a sandhill crane or a bald eagle or, goodness knows, a yellow-headed blackbird in the background would be cool.”