By United States Senator John Boozman (Ark.)

The Natural State is well-known for its beautiful rivers, majestic mountains and incredible wildlife. Arkansans have long celebrated and utilized these resources in a variety of ways. The abundance of natural treasures is one of the many reasons people are drawn to the state for recreation opportunities. We are particularly proud of the world-class duck hunting that attracts sportsmen and women from around the globe.

As a destination for duck hunters, Arkansas has a vested interest in ensuring it maintains the critical habitat that ducks and other waterfowl flock to, including the flooded fields that abound in the nation's top rice-producing state and the iconic bottomland hardwoods where hunters can enjoy ample opportunities to hit their limit. As the nation's top producer of rice, when these fields are flooded at the end of the season, they make a great habitat for migrating ducks and an ideal location for hunters to bag some ducks.

This pastime is a major economic driver for the state, so farmers and citizens from across Arkansas are committed to maintaining an environment that supports waterfowl and draws hunters back each season. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission estimates that hunting contributes nearly $1 million to the state's economy daily during duck season. According to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis study, the economic impact of hunting nationwide is more than $110 billion.

In addition to the investments outdoor recreation enthusiasts make in our communities, they also prove exceedingly willing to help expand conservation efforts on public lands. Sportsmen have consistently been responsible leaders in the stewardship of our resources and understand the importance of protecting wildlife habitat so they can continue to enjoy the hobby that brings them much satisfaction and instills in them an intense pride. One valuable tool to support the recreation activities of duck hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts, is, of course, the Duck Stamp.

Since 1934, sportsmen have been required to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp to hunt migratory birds. This initiative has been wildly successful generating approximately $25 million annually. That money is deposited into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund and supports enhanced conservation efforts. The good news is that 98 cents of every dollar raised by the sale of the Duck Stamp is used to preserve waterfowl populations.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) has used these funds to support conservation of duck and other waterfowl habitat on millions of acres nationwide. As a member of the MBCC, I'm proud to be a voice for the preservation of wetlands and play a leading role to enhance federal efforts to maintain and strengthen waterfowl habitat. In Arkansas, sales from the Duck Stamp have resulted in expanded access to hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

In the duck hunting capital of the world, outdoor recreation enthusiasts are looking to leaders at all levels of government to join in this effort to preserve waterfowl habitat so our state can continue to be a destination for hunters. The Duck Stamp has increased and improved these opportunities, which is why I will continue to advocate for this initiative at the federal level to strengthen migratory bird habitat.

As we've seen in the past year, COVID-19 has compelled countless Americans to reconnect with the outdoors. A recent study from the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports found that hunting license sales were up in all regions of the country last year, making it even more necessary for us to ensure the great outdoors are protected today and for future generations of Americans to enjoy. The Duck Stamp is one way outdoor recreation enthusiasts are leaving their mark on strengthening wildlife habitat and making sure we can pass down this time-honored tradition to our kids and grandkids.