So, I was at a “Duck Stamp” meeting today—or rather a meeting for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Program. It was held at the Minnesota Valley NWR Visitor's Center next to the Minneapolis/St Paul Airport. There were feeders outside our windows so I had to work very hard to focus and not bird (note all the woodpeckers at left).
I was surrounded by people involved with Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Fish and Wildlife Service and DNR, guys who work for Congressman Kennedy—all types of big wigs and all very interested in preserving wetlands and the species associated with them.
The group got very excited when a sharp-shinned hawk flew in and landed on top of the feeders. All the birds were gone at that moment and it moved on. Twenty minutes later a flock of house sparrows moved in. Like a blue blot from the sky, the sharpie dropped straight in and sent all the sparrows in every direction--some flew into the window. It looked like the sharpie nailed one of the sparrows and then flew off with its meal--cool! Of course, always having a camera ready for a blogable moment, I did get a photo of the sharpie on one of its passes (right).
Hey, here's a question for ya':
Did you know, approximately 98 cents of every duck stamp dollar goes directly into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase wetlands and wildlife habitat for inclusion into the National Wildlife Refuge System?
Why aren't more birders (scratch that, make it people) buying this stamp?!?!?
We were trying to figure out how to increase the sales of duck stamps or at least how to increase the revenue from the stamps. Eagle Optics was invited so I was there representing the company and trying to find ways to be more supportive, because let’s face it, if there are no wetlands, there really aren’t much birds to watch and no one will need binoculars and I’m out of a job. It behooves me to pay attention and encourage others to buy duck stamps for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Program.
There’s genuine concern about the heritage of duck hunting disappearing. If duck hunters want to hunt they must purchase a stamp, something that birders do not have to do in order to go out and enjoy birds. For those folks who have never cared for hunting to begin with and are grateful for fewer hunters—you should be worried, very worried. Fewer duck hunters, fewer stamps purchased. Fewer stamps purchased, fewer areas of habitat for birds we enjoy and watch to thrive in.
There’s an idea in the legislature to increase the current stamp price from $15 to $25. Will there be some backlash from people who already purchase stamps and maybe this will be enough to make them stop duck hunting? Another idea is try to get non hunters to purchase the stamp. There’s been a push the last few years, but birders aren’t buying. I wonder what the reason is there? One is that most birders have the idea of “I’m not killing anything, so why not let hunters carry the burden on this?” or “I don’t need to worry about it, someone out there will make enough of a fuss so I don’t have to?” The comment was also made over and over again by both hunters and birders involved in the meeting that birders are cheap. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be stereotyped that way. Birders and other frequenters of National Wildlife Refuges purchase a $15 Federal Duck Stamp each year in order to gain free admission to refuges. Conservationists buy Federal Duck Stamps because they know that the stamps are, dollar for dollar, one of the best investments one can make in the future of America’s wetlands.
I'm encouraged by the ideas that were generated today and hopeful we will see success with them in the future. There are some real movers and shakers invovled with this so there is reason to be hopeful. The bottom line, however, is that more non hunters need to invest in the stamp, it's one of the best tools for habitat preservation out there.
(At the end of the meeting I sat by the window and watched the feeders a little to unwind and low and behold a possum trucked right on through.)