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

September 1
Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, Died (1914)
September 2
President Roosevelt Dedicated Great Smoky National Park (1940)
September 3
Wilderness Act passed (1964)
September 4
Fort Bragg, Home of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Established (1918)
September 5
UNESCO Established First World Heritage Sites (1978)
September 6
Alcide d’Orbigny, French Naturalist, Born (1802)
September 7
Edward Birge, Father of Limnology, born (1851)
September 8
UN Millennium Declaration ratified (2000)
September 9
First “Bug” Found in Computer (1945)
September 10
Henry Hardtner, Father of Southern Forestry, Born (1870)
September 11
World Wildlife Fund Began Operations (1961)
September 12
Canyonlands National Park Established (1964)
September 13
Walter Reed born (1851)
September 14
Marc Reisner, Author of Cadillac Desert (1948)
September 15
Darwin reaches the Galapagos Islands (1835)
September 16
Ed Begley Jr., Environmental Advocate, born (1949)
September 17
Edgar Wayburn, Wilderness Advocate, Born (1906)
September 18
Grey Owl, Pioneering Conservationist in Canada, Born (1888)
September 19
Urmas Tartes, Estonian Nature Photographer, born (1963)
September 20
AAAS Founded (1848)
September 21
Assateague Island National Seashore Created (1965)
September 22
Peace Corps becomes law (1961)
September 23
Rose Selected as U.S. National Flower (1986)
September 24
President Kennedy Dedicated Pinchot Institute (1963)
September 25
Pope Francis Addressed the UN on the Environment (2015)
September 26
Johnny Appleseed Born (1774)
September 27
“Silent Spring” Published (1962)
September 28
National Public Lands Day
September 29
Steinhart Aquarium opens (1923)
September 30
Hoover Dam Dedicated (1935)
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