In a voice vote on Monday, Nov. 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the price of federal duck stamps from $15 to $25. The bill now moves to the Senate.
"Ducks Unlimited's goal is to have the Duck Stamp Act of 2014 signed into law by the end of the year," said Katie Murtha, DU's chief policy officer. "The time is now."
Indeed it is. The battle to provide the duck stamp program with much-needed teeth has waged for about five years; meanwhile inflation and land values have continued to rise, further decreasing the conservation power of each stamp sold. That's why, in addition to DU, Delta Waterfowl and about 30 other conservation groups support the increase.
Duck stamps haven't increased in price since 1991—before I was even old enough to legally hunt. Here's why I find this unacceptable:
• Funds generated by sales of "migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps" are vital to wetlands conservation. About 2.5 million acres in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) have been conserved through federal easements since 1934, including 7,000 waterfowl production areas (which, by the way, also preserves public-hunting opportunities). Preservation of PPR grassland is absolutely vital to maintaining stable waterfowl populations.
• While the price per stamp has not increased, land values have skyrocketed during the last 20 years. In Minnesota, for instance, the average price for an acre of land in 1998 was $400—today it's $1,400, a 250-percent jump. Though 98 cents of every dollar spent on stamps goes to conservation, a dollar simply doesn't have the buying power it did twenty years ago. Accounting for inflation, $15 in 1991 equates to $26 today.
To me, the most frustrating aspect of the duck-stamp price debate is the resistance it's received from a few hunters. To me it's simple: Do we want to adequately fund the most successful conservation program in the history of North America or let it fade away? Do we want ducks, or would we rather have a measly $10 in our wallets?