In December, Ducks Unlimited signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that expanded DU's historic partnership with the federal duck stamp program. Under this agreement, Ducks Unlimited will assist in communications efforts promoting the federal duck stamp contest as well as duck stamp sales to generate more support for waterfowl and wetlands conservation. DU's working relationship with the USFWS will also help spread the word about the historic and vital support waterfowl hunters have always provided to conservation programs.
The first Duck Stamp (1934-1935), a brush and ink drawing of Mallards by Jay N. "Ding" Darling, a famous cartoonist and noted conservationist sold for one dollar (635,001 stamps were sold).
Maintaining the success of the federal duck stamp program is vital to wetlands and waterfowl in many ways. Established in 1934 with an inaugural stamp price of only $1, the federal duck stamp program has raised more than $700 million, which has been used to conserve more than 5.2 million acres of migratory bird habitat across the United States. Nearly all duck stamp funds go directly to conservation, with nearly 98 cents of every dollar spent on acquiring and protecting habitat.
Among the most valuable lands acquired with duck stamp money are waterfowl production areas (WPAs), which are managed by the USFWS as part of the national wildlife refuge system. Duck stamp funds have been used to acquire nearly 7,000 WPAs totaling 675,000 acres, largely in the prairie states. These treasured public lands provide vital habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife as well as places where people can enjoy nature and pursue a variety of outdoor recreation including hunting. Working with the USFWS and other partners, Ducks Unlimited has completed hundreds of wetland restoration projects on these public lands. In addition, DU supports increased annual funding for the national wildlife refuge system to manage wildlife habitat, restore deteriorating infrastructure, renew education programs and provide greater public access and outdoor recreation.
Ducks Unlimited also partners with the USFWS in securing perpetual easements from landowners to protect wetlands and grasslands on private lands. To date, duck stamp revenues along with funding from Ducks Unlimited, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), and other sources have protected 2.5 million acres of prairie wetlands and grasslands. Unfortunately, millions of acres of unprotected waterfowl habitat on the prairies remain at high risk of conversion to cropland. Many ranchers and other prairie landowners would like to protect their land with easements, but landowner demand far exceeds available easement funding.
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