Joshua Winchell, 202 219-7499
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with nine state fish and wildlife agencies is implementing a three-year pilot program to make it easier for hunters, birdwatchers, stamp collectors -- and others who want to conserve our nation's wetlands -- to buy Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as Duck Stamps.
This new program, debuting September 1st, allows the fish and wildlife agencies of Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin, to sell stamps electronically through their individual automated licensing systems, providing a special receipt as proof of purchase. This proof of purchase -- a unique code given to the purchaser instantly -- will be accepted as evidence of a Federal Duck Stamp purchase for 45 days -- time enough for the printed stamp to arrive in the mail. Duck Stamp purchasers will now be able to buy an electronic duck stamp from these nine states' retail licensing locations, by telephone, or website. Every waterfowl hunter over the age of 16 is required to buy a Federal Duck Stamp in order to hunt waterfowl. In addition, Federal Duck Stamps provide free entry into any national wildlife refuge in the country that charges an entrance fee.
The electronic proof of purchase will both fulfill the requirement for waterfowl hunters to possess the stamp, and allow visitors to National Wildlife Refuges gain free access. After the 45 days, the proof of purchase will expire and the purchasers must possess the paper stamp to receive its full benefit.
The Federal Duck Stamp is currently available at most major sporting good stores selling hunting and fishing licenses, select post offices and online through the U.S. Postal Service and AMPLEX, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Duck Stamp fulfillment center.
"This pilot program explores one way to improve service to duck stamp purchasers, in particular those from rural or remote areas," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director, H. Dale Hall. "We are always looking for new ways to better serve the public, and enhance wetland conservation."
Funds from Duck Stamp sales are a vital tool for wetland conservation, with 98 cents of every dollar generated used to purchase or lease wetland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since the stamp's inception in 1934, more than $700 million has been raised to acquire more than 5.2 million acres of waterfowl habitat. In 2005, more than 1.6 million Federal Duck Stamps were sold.
"The Duck Stamp program provides much needed funding for wetland conservation, and it is important that they are marketed appropriately for today's web-savvy public," said Matt Hogan, Executive Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. "The E-Duck Stamp meets the needs of modern day hunters and stamp collectors and ensures continued success for wetland conservation."
The Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2005 directed the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with state management agencies, to conduct a three-year pilot program under which up to 15 states could issue electronic migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps. The pilot program will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate the program and make adjustments or assess other distribution options to better serve stamp buyers.
Click this link for more information about the Federal Duck Stamp Program.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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