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Doug Leier: North Dakota takes center stage in this year's federal Duck Stamp Art Contest

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose Bismarck as the site for its 2022 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest.

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Out of every dollar generated by the sale of federal duck stamps, 98 cents goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
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Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

WEST FARGO – A few weeks ago, I went to the post office and bought my Duck Stamp. I’ve done this for about 35 years running, which seems like a long time. Yet, I know there are readers who can tell me they've been purchasing Duck Stamps longer than that.

On the other side of the discussion are hunters who will smile and nod, saying they bought their stamp online, which I’ll agree is quick, convenient and the new normal.

But the history of the Duck Stamp remains more important than ever.

Buying a Duck Stamp provides a hunter age 16 or older the federal authorization to legally hunt ducks, geese and swans. But it provides more than just a legal right to hunt.

Consider that 98 cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

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From license sales to excise taxes, membership in clubs and volunteering, hunters have always stepped up to try to improve the outdoor world.

The federal Duck Stamp program has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated and is a highly effective way to conserve America’s natural resources.

The Duck Stamp – or Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, as it’s officially known – began in 1934 in direct response to the grave decline in the nation’s once plentiful duck and goose populations.

“Prior to ratification of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, commercial exploitation and unregulated hunting weighed heavy on waterfowl populations,” said Mike Szymanski, North Dakota Game and Fish Department migratory game bird management supervisor. “Add in the conversion of millions of acres of prairie grasses and wetlands to create farmland, coupled with the historic drought of the 1930s, and America’s waterfowl simply couldn’t recover.

“We have just shy of 300,000 national wildlife refuge acres in North Dakota where we don’t hunt waterfowl, but we do have some other hunting opportunities on those lands. And we also have the federal waterfowl production areas,” Szymanski added. “The WPAs provide just shy of 300,000 acres of public hunting access and that’s just what’s in North Dakota. Funds from the sale of duck stamps are also super important for conducting voluntary habitat work on private lands that benefit so many species.”

The WPAs benefit all prairie habitat-type species, from sharp-tailed grouse, pheasants, songbirds, wading birds, white-tailed deer and, of course, waterfowl.

Since 1934, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than $1 billion has been raised by the sale of federal duck stamps to help conserve more than 6 million acres of high-quality waterfowl habitat. Service officials, and certainly many conservationists, laud the Duck Stamp as a conservation success story for the ages.

There’s a special North Dakota focus on the federal Duck Stamp this year and rightfully so. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose Bismarck as the site for its 2022 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest.

“As the center of the Prairie Pothole Region, North Dakota is a crucial stopover site and breeding grounds for migrating birds in the Central Flyway,” Matt Hogan, regional director for the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region, said in a news release. “North Dakota serves as a perfect spot for birders, hunters, conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts and artists to celebrate this year’s Duck Stamp Contest.”

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The only legislatively mandated federal art competition in the nation will be hosted by the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture. Representing federal, state, nonprofit and private landowner conservation partners, the PPJV works to sustain bird populations in the Prairie Pothole Region through voluntary wetland and grassland protection, restoration and enhancement programs.

USFWS officials said the winning artwork will be featured on the federal Duck Stamp that will go on sale July 1, 2023.

Buying your Duck Stamp at the post office or online is your choice, but either way, you’ll be helping the future of waterfowl and habitat in North Dakota, which is as important as ever.

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.
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