DU Director of the Governmental Affairs Office Scott Sutherland
Ducks Unlimited recently voiced its support of legislation that would make the federal duck stamp
more readily available to the general public during testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. In testifying for Ducks Unlimited, DU Director of the Governmental Affairs Office Scott Sutherland discussed how the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2011 would make purchasing the federal duck stamp easier for hunters while preserving the heritage and utility of the traditional duck stamp.
"For generations, waterfowlers have willingly paid for conservation
programs and the federal duck stamp is no exception," Sutherland said. "Continuing to find ways to make the duck stamp more accessible to the general public is beneficial to the people who buy the stamp and the wildlife habitat that it conserves."
H.R. 3117, the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2011, is a bill to grant the U.S. Secretary of the Interior permanent authority to authorize states to issue electronic duck stamps. For decades, waterfowl hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts could only buy their duck stamps at a physical location, such as a post office. However, these stamps are not available at all postal locations, sometimes making it difficult for hunters and others to purchase the stamp on short notice. In order to expand access to the public, legislation was passed in 2005 to create a pilot program that allows the public to instantly use federal duck stamps purchased online. Upon purchase, the customer is given a special receipt to print and use while hunting
until the actual stamp is delivered by mail.
During the testimony, Sutherland explained that the trial program delivered proven results. "The pilot program has successfully made it easier for the general public to buy federal duck stamps while simultaneously preserving the integrity of the traditional duck stamp. Because of this success, Ducks Unlimited supports H.R. 3117, which would make this program permanent," said Sutherland.
Expanding the availability of the federal duck stamp is just one measure needed to ensure the stamp's conservation legacy can continue. Over the last 77 years, funds generated by the stamp have been used to purchase, buy easements or lease more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat
in the United States. However, the price of a federal duck stamp has remained at $15 since 1991, while land prices across the United States have skyrocketed. In 1991, revenue from the duck stamp supported conservation expenditures at an average cost of $306 per acre. In 2010, only one-third as many acres were conserved because land values had tripled to an average cost of $1,091 per acre. Based on the consumer price index, the stamp would need to cost $24.86 today to have the same buying power that $15 had in 1991. For these reasons, Ducks Unlimited supports legislation that would immediately increase the price of the stamp from $15 to $25, allowing the program's revenues to keep pace with inflation.
While the focus of Sutherland's testimony was on the benefits of the federal duck stamp, he also spoke about another program that is an integral part of waterfowl habitat conservation, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
. For over 20 years, NAWCA has served as a cost-effective, match-based wetlands conservation program that generates $3.20 of non-federal dollars for every one dollar invested. Sutherland explained to members of Congress that "both the federal duck stamp and NAWCA provide ways to properly conserve wetlands across the country, making these programs an essential and related part of the way waterfowl habitat are protected and funded."