Federal duck stamp reaches 80th birthday, with history rooted in conservation

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The stamps have generated more than $800 million and helped secure more than 6 million acres of U.S. wetland habitat

Eighty years ago — Aug. 22, 1934, to be exact — the first duck stamp was sold. The stamps have generated more than $800 million and helped secure more than 6 million acres of U.S. wetland habitat, thanks mostly to hunters.

Here are some historical facts about the duck stamp and waterfowl conservation, provided by the Boone and Crockett Club:

  • Waterfowl are abundant today. But in 1901, few remained from an era of unregulated market hunting, diversions of water and draining of wetlands for agricultural purposes. Known mostly for its advocacy of big-game conservation, the Boone and Crockett Club and its members went to work.
  • Club member and Pennsylvania Congressman George Shiras in 1904 began a long crusade to place migratory birds under federal jurisdiction.
  • In 1918 President Taft signed the McLean-Weeks Migratory Bird Act urged by Club members George Bird Grinnell, William T. Hornaday, Madison Grant and others.
  • The Dust Bowl years of the 1920s were a major setback for waterfowl. The Boone and Crockett Club campaigned for refuges to help populations recover.
  • In 1927 Boone and Crockett members launched American Wild Fowlers, an organization that would later become Ducks Unlimited.
  • With partnership from this new organization committed to waterfowl, the Club engineered passage of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929, establishing the federal refuge system.
  • Major funding for waterfowl came in 1934 with the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. Club member and Connecticut Senator Frederic C. Walcott had established a senate committee on wildlife conservation and successfully pushed the “Duck Stamp Bill” through Congress.
  • That same year, the first duck stamp, illustrated by Club member and Nobel Prize winning political cartoonist Jay N. “Ding” Darling was sold on Aug. 22, 1934. The first stamps sold for $1 and 635,000 stamps were sold that year.
  • Within five years, annual sales surpassed the $1 million level (equivalent to about $17 million in today’s dollars) and the conservation benefits have grown ever since.

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