Is A Duck-Stamp Competition Really The Best We Can Do?

Considering all of the great strides being made by conservation groups around the world, a recent announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had me scratching my head.

Here’s what the federal agency in charge of wildlife protection and habitat conservation is doing to further its mission: sponsoring a contest to design a “duck stamp” to raise money for the National Wildlife Refuge System. No, this is not a story from The Onion. It is our federal government.

In theory, the intentions are positive, and the causes are just. According to the FWS statement, $0.98 of every dollar from the stamps’ sales will go toward the purchase or lease of wetland habitat. Jack Slack, director of the FWS’ training center, appears to have the right idea.

“Never has it been more important to conserve and restore wetland habitat, especially as we search for methods to minimize the effects of climate change, for waterfowl and the multitude of other species that depend on wetlands,” Slack said in a statement released by the FWS.

But here’s where it gets interesting. The “duck stamp” is sold to every waterfowl hunter aged 16 or older for $15 apiece — a requirement mandated by federal law. There you have it: Hunting is funding wildlife “conservation.” How’s that for irony?

I must admit, before this announcement, I had never heard of a “duck stamp,” let alone the contest, despite its 75+ year history. But then again, I don’t hunt. And I’ve never been to West Virginia.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s encouraging to see the FWS make any attempt at conservation, as lame as this one may be. Let’s just hope the agency, with the help of the larger Department of the Interior, makes some bold action on persisting and pressing conservation issues.



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