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Outdoor Tales

March 14, 2002


Duck stamps are a powerful conservation tool and good things happen with our money when you purchase them.

Most of us aren't aware of how the money is spent and grumble every year when we have to shell out the dollars for both a state and federal duck stamp. The first federal stamp, drawn in 1934, showed two mallards landing on a lake and raised $635,000 in federal revenue.

Since that time, the cumulative half billion dollars collected from the stamps has helped preserve more than 5 million acres of wetlands.

Overall, the federal duck stamp program is highly successful in protection of native habitats in North America and a new book, "The Duck Stamp Story," brings an appreciation of the efforts required to make it happen. Stamp collectors, hunters, naturalists and historians will all find something of value in this book.


To obtain a copy call (301) 949-5695 or check the Web site:

Birds, stamp collecting and conservation have long been associated with one of the most successful wetlands protection programs ever developed. The birds are the 42 species of North American ducks, geese and swans. A painting of one is chosen each year for the federal duck stamp program.

Duck stamps can be purchased from a state's wildlife department and are a required license for all duck hunters. However, many people who have never lifted a gun buy duck stamps because they provide free entry to any of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's more than 500 national wildlife refuges.

In addition, the benefit to wetlands habitat conservation from the purchase of duck stamps cannot be overstated.

Whether you hunt ducks or not, sections on the background of personal and government events leading to the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Act in 1934 are of interest. The history of the politics and personalities of the program, which really began in the 1920s and earlier with some far-sighted conservationists, is presented in superb fashion.

In the 15 years following creation of the first stamp, artists were commissioned for the project. In 1949 the national duck stamp contest was initiated. Although the winning artists are not paid by the federal government, they earn money from the sale of prints and other royalties (and in recent years most have become millionaires).

But the most important financial benefit from the sale of duck stamps continues to be the millions of dollars in revenue used for the acquisition of wetland habitats. About 98 cents of every dollar goes for wetlands purchase and protection.

The objective of the duck stamp program is to acquire habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds that require wetlands. The program has done an admirable job in preserving wetlands throughout the country. Only certain wetlands are preserved; however, namely those used in some way by ducks.

But this is appropriate, since the users of duck stamps contribute financially to the acquisition of the wetlands.

On the California scene the Department of Fish and Game is holding a final sale of expired duck and upland game bird stamps now through June 30. All remaining expired inventory will be destroyed after this date.

In future license years, duck stamps and upland game bird stamps will be offered for sale only until the June 30 expiration date. Additionally, the DFG is offering for final sale, the remaining supply of native species first day of issue envelopes.

The DFG has more than $2 million worth of these collector items in inventory, dating from 1981 through 2001. This is an opportunity for private stamp collectors and stamp collecting businesses to purchase these items at their face value while they are still available. This change will benefit collectors as they will no longer have to compete with DFG in selling these items and the limited availability will inherently increase their value.

Duck and upland game bird stamps have beautiful illustrations of a variety of species by renowned artists. These items make wonderful gifts for holidays, birthdays, graduations, retirements or any occasion. Collecting wildlife conservation stamps is a popular pastime that many wildlife enthusiasts enjoy.

Revenue from the sale of duck and upland game bird stamps is used to manage and protect California's waterfowl, upland game birds and their habitats.

To view a listing of collector stamp inventory, go to the following address on the Internet:

To purchase expired collector's stamps, you may print the order form and fax it to DFG's license and revenue branch at (916) 227-2261 or mail it to the Department of Fish and Game, license and revenue branch, 3211 S St., Sacramento, CA 95816. All orders must be received by the DFG's license and revenue branch no later than 5 p.m. June 30. Orders will be processed as received while supplies last.

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at

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