Recognizing Our ‘Waterfowl Hunting Heritage’ – Feds Want Your Comments

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waterfowl hunting heritage
Waterfowl hunters (16 or older) are required to purchase federal duck stamps to hunt. Typically those stamps have only depicted various species of waterfowl. Now, however, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is proposing that artists also include subjects which recognize "our waterfowl hunting heritage." (Photo: Richard Simms)

Much to the chagrin of anti-hunters, hunters have long argued that they are our country’s greatest conservationists. They point out that the dollars raised via licenses and equipment purchases provide the overwhelming majority of funding for most state and federal wildlife conservation & management efforts. Anti-hunters have a difficult, if not impossible time refuting the claim.

Now the federal government is considering a somewhat obscure, but major recognition of that effort by requiring artists competing in the annual federal duck stamp competition to visually acknowledge our waterfowl hunting heritage. In its news release the Service writes, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has today proposed to celebrate hunters’ remarkable achievements and our unique American hunting heritage with a change to the 2018 Federal Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the Duck Stamp.”

While the rules would still require that a waterfowl species be the main focus of the stamp artwork, judges would also be required to evaluate other visual elements of our waterfowl hunting heritage, such as a duck blind in the background, or even a hunter standing among the cattails.

For now, however, it is only a proposal. As with any federal bureaucracy the USFWS must jump through huge hoops to make such changes, including an official “Public Comment Period.” Between now and December 28, 2017 they are soliciting written comments and information concerning this proposal. You can submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. You can also mail your comments to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS-HQ-MB-2015-0161]; Division of Policy, Performance and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike – MS: BPHC Falls Church, VA 22041-3808.

The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

If you’re curious, here is my official Comment: “I am proud and excited to see the proposal to visually recognize our ‘waterfowl hunting heritage’ in the Federal Duck Stamp. The money I spend on my duck stamp every year, and every other license I purchase, is wisely used for wildlife management and conservation efforts. Hunters are virtually the only segment of society significantly contributing to such an effort – this in spite of the fact that everyone benefits from those contributions. While it would be nice to see the means created by which non-consumptive users could also provide significant contributions… I am proud to see the USFWS recognizing the huge commitment of hunters.”

MORE INFORMATION (from USFWS News Release)

Over the past century, waterfowl hunters have helped create and conserve millions of acres of wetland habitat, not only providing places for a wide diversity of wildlife to thrive, but also helping in flood control and water purification efforts, and creating significant economic stimulus for rural communities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has today proposed to celebrate hunters’ remarkable achievements and our unique American hunting heritage with a change to the 2018 Federal Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the Duck Stamp.

The Federal Duck Stamp Program has become one of the most popular and successful conservation programs ever initiated. While waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required to purchase a stamp each hunting season, anyone can buy one and contribute to conservation. Some 1.8 million stamps are sold each year, and as of 2017, Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $1 billion for the preservation of more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States. A current Federal Duck Stamp is also a free pass into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee.

In addition to being the only conservation revenue stamp, the Federal Duck Stamp is also unique in the way it is created. Each year, the Service holds an art contest, the only juried art competition sponsored by the Federal Government.

The Service’s proposal would require entries in the 2018 contest to include one or more visual element that reflect the theme “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage.” They must also adhere to existing contest regulations that require a live portrayal of one or more of the five eligible waterfowl species (wood duck, American wigeon, northern pintail, green-winged teal and lesser scaup for 2018) as the dominant foreground feature that is clearly the focus of attention. Contestants will be judged on the quality of their art and how well they illustrate the theme. The contest winner’s art will be made into the 2019-2020 Duck Stamp.

The Service also proposes for 2018 that all selected contest judges must have an understanding and appreciation of America’s waterfowl hunting heritage and be able to recognize scenery or objects related to waterfowl hunting.

In addition to the proposals specific to 2018, the Service is proposing permanent revisions to the scientific names of species on the list of contest design subjects and updates to recognize technological advances in stamp design and printing.

The notice was published in the Federal Register on November 28. Written comments and information concerning this proposal can be submitted by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to: [FWS-HQ-MB-2015-0161] U. S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS-HQ-MB-2015-0161]; Division of Policy, Performance and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike – MS: BPHC Falls Church, VA 22041-3808.

Comments must be received within 30 days, on or before December 28, 2017. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

For more information, please visit this website.

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