First Federal Duck Stamp issued in 1934.

November 1, 2017

Why Duck Stamps? Part 1: History of the Federal and State Duck Stamps

Aerial view of prairie pothole wetlands and grasslands.
The prairie pothole wetlands and grasslands that make up the “Duck Factory.” Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited Canada.

In the dust bowl era of 1934, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, more commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp, was created. The stamp was largely driven because of increasing concern waterfowl hunters had over habitat loss and long-term population impacts to migratory waterfowl. All waterfowl hunters over the age of 16 were, and continue to be, required to purchase a waterfowl stamp. Funds from federal stamp sales are directed towards the purchase, or lease, of lands for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

With an initial cost of just a $1 and current cost of $25 a year, to date Federal Duck Stamp funds have generated more than $800 million. These resources have resulted in the protection of more than 5.7 million acres of wildlife habitat nationwide, providing critical habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife and fish, not just waterfowl.

Hunters must affix physical Federal Duck Stamps Stamps to their license. These stamps remain a highly collectible item, and such purchases may function as a significant annual contribution to conservation efforts.

Creation of the Illinois Migratory Stamp Fund

Illinois hunters witnessed the quality and quantity of the state’s waterfowl habitat degrade in the 1960s and 1970s. They also realized that maintaining healthy waterfowl populations in Illinois meant protecting the most important areas to the survival and reproduction of migrating ducks—the northern breeding areas in the Prairie Pothole Region of the U.S. and Canada.

Illinois migratory waterfowl stamp for 1975.

In 1975 the Illinois Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund (aka Illinois Duck Stamp Fund) was established, with rules similar to the Federal Duck Stamp. Like their federal counterpart, Illinois stamps are required for waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and older. Initially, the Illinois stamp was $5, and prices have increased twice, doubling to $10 in 1991 and $15.50 in 2011.

Over the life of the fund, stamp purchases have led to the deposit of more than $24 million in this fund. Current sales annually average 60,000 stamps and nearly a million dollars in revenue. Paper Illinois Migratory Waterfowl stamps were produced through 2010, and hunters affixed them to their license. These stamps were quite collectible and many were purchased annually by collectors, or as a donation to conservation. Although Illinois Duck Stamps are still required, they now appear only as a line-item on licenses.

NEXT ISSUE: Part 2—How State Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Funds are Spent

Randy Smith has been the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife Resources Wetland Wildlife Program Manager since 2013. From 2006 to his employment with IDNR, he worked as a waterfowl researcher with the Illinois Natural History Survey at the Forbes Biological Station in Havana.

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