Duck Stamp Born (1934)

The Duck Stamp—actually the “Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp”—came into force on July 1, 1934.  All hunters of migratory waterfowl must purchase and carry a Duck Stamp in order to hunt legally in the United States.

The first Duck Stamp, issued in 1934 (drawing by Jay N. Ding Darling)

            The Duck Stamp was one solution to the deteriorating condition of waterfowl habitat during the first decades of the 20th Century.  Conservationists finally convinced the federal government to provide a permanent source of funds for habitat protection and restoration in the form of a “revenue stamp.”  The first duck stamp, required for the 1934-1935 hunting season, cost $1.  The stamp featured a pair of Mallard Ducks landing in a marsh.  It was drawn by Ding Darling, then the Director of the Biological Survey (today known as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Ding Darling (left) buying the first Duck Stamp in 1934 (photo by USFWS)

            Darling’s career, before and after his stint with the government, was as an editorial cartoonist with the Des Moines (Iowa) Register and Tribune newspaper.  He was an ardent conservationist, however, and an out-spoken critic of President Franklin Roosevelt’s conservation policies.  Roosevelt coerced Darling to come to Washington to see if he could do a better job running the nation’s wildlife programs.  Darling took the job, lasting for only a brief 22 months.  But during that time he became known as “the best friend a duck ever had” (read more about Darling here).

            The Duck Stamp is proof of Darling’s effectiveness.  The first year, about 600,000 stamps were sold; today about 1.7 million are sold annually.  An amazing 98% of the stamp revenue goes directly to conservation, a total of over $800 million since 1934 (credit for the program’s efficiency goes to Ms. Suzanne Fellows, who runs the entire Duck Stamp program almost by herself). More than 5.7 million acres of wetlands have been purchased or restored using Duck Stamp funds (learn about the first National Wildlife Refuge here. The idea of using revenue stamps for conservation has spread across the nation and world.  More than 1000 state, local and tribal stamps have been issued in the U.S. alone.  Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina, Belgium, Australia, Russia and the U.K. all issue duck stamps.

Duck Stamps provide funds to purchase and manage refuges, like the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon (photo by Aaron D. Drew, USFWS)

            Along with their conservation value, the stamps themselves have become an artistic and collecting phenomenon.   The stamp is the longest running stamp series in U.S. history.  Since 1949, the artwork for the stamp has been selected through a national art contest—the only art competition of its kind run by the federal government.  The nation’s top wildlife artists vie for the honor of painting the winning entry each year.  Begun in 1989, a Junior Duck Stamp Program uses art as a stimulus to interest elementary school students in conservation.  The Smithsonian Institution’s Postal Museum has a continuing exhibit of Duck Stamps, and duck stamp aficionado’s have their own collector’s society.

This framed 1976-77 duck stamp print hangs above my desk (photo by Larry Nielsen)

References:

Brookman Stamps.  History of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act.  Available at:  http://www.brookmanstamps.com/Netcat/federal/History.htm. Accessed June 28, 2017.

Smithsonian National Postal Museum.  The Jeanette C. Rudy Duck Stamp Collection.  Available at:  https://arago.si.edu/exhibit_369.html. Accessed June 28, 2017.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Duck Stamps Dollars at Work.  Available at:  https://www.fws.gov/birds/get-involved/duck-stamp/duck-stamp-dollars-at-work.php. Accessed June 28, 2017.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  History of the Federal Duck Stamp.  Available at:  https://www.fws.gov/birds/get-involved/duck-stamp/history-of-the-federal-duck-stamp.php. Accessed June 28, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
January February March April May June July August September October November December