Federal Duck Stamp and NAWCA

Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (The Duck Stamp)

The Stamp that isn’t actually a Stamp

The winning artwork for the 2014 contest.
The winning artwork for the 2014 contest.

The Duck Stamp isn’t actually a stamp at all! Although it is produced by the U.S. Postal Service,  it is not valid to use as postage. The Duck Stamp is actually a federal license required for hunting migratory waterfowl that also provides free entrance into any national wildlife refuge.

A whopping 98 cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of the Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. It has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated.

Duck Stamp Benefitting Wildlife

Since it’s introduction in 1934, Duck Stamp sales have generated more than $800 million which has been used to purchase or lease over 6 million acres of wetland habitat in the United States.

Waterfowl receive enormous benefits from the stamp, but they are not alone. Countless other bird, mammal, fish, reptile, and amphibian species that rely on wetlands have also prospered due to the acreage obtained. In addition, an estimated one third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species find food or shelter in refuges established using Federal Duck Stamp dollars.

Duck Stamp Benefitting People

Although the protection of waterfowl is the main purpose of the Duck Stamp, people benefit from it as well. Duck Stamp funds provide a place for people to enjoy pastimes beyond just hunting such as hiking, bird watching, and photography. In addition, the protected wetlands provide ecological benefits such as water purification, storage of flood water, reduction of soil erosion and sedimentation, and spawning areas for fish that play a vital role in sport and commercial fishing.

The Art Behind the Stamp

J.N. “Ding” Darling designed the very first federal Duck Stamp in 1934. Beginning in 1949, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sponsored a stamp-design contest featuring wildlife artists from across the country– the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government. The winning art is then used on the following year’s stamp.

The 2014-2015 winning art was done by Adam Grimm, of Burbank, South Dakota. His oil painting of a pair of Canvasbacks was judged as the best of 201 entries. Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chooses five species for artists to choose from that may be painted. The species in 2013 were: blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, and Canvasback.


Junior Duck Stamp

The first Junior Duck Stamps were produced in 1989. They are now the capstone of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Junior Duck Stamp environmental education program, which teaches students across the nation about “conservation through the arts”. Sales of the Junior Duck Stamps go towards environmental education programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several territories.

How Can I Purchase a Federal Duck Stamp or Junior Duck Stamp?

The Federal Duck Stamp, sold for $25 (after a recent price increase), and the Junior Duck Stamp, sold for $5, can both be purchased at many post offices around the country. The stamps can also be purchased online, and at many national wildlife refuges, sporting goods stores, and outdoors stores. And although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Duck Stamp Office does not sell Duck Stamp products, they do allow licensed vendors to make and sell products bearing the images of Federal and Junior Duck Stamps. Click here to see the list of current vendors.

Clearly the Federal and Junior Duck Stamps are an extremely effective conservation tool and provide many benefits to wildlife and the American public. Click below for more information:


North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 4.51.16 PMThe North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 (NAWCA) provides matching grants to organizations and individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects in the United States, Canada, and Mexico for the benefit of wetlands-associated migratory birds and other wildlife. Two competitive grant programs, the standard and small grants programs, require that grant requests be matched by partner contributions at no less than a 1-to-1 ratio.

NAWCA projects are developed by landowners and organizations at the community level, and fuel an effective public-private partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, landowners, and conservation organizations. These projects protect habitats that are vital to the production and survival of continental mallards, northern pintail, other waterfowl, and declining migratory bird species. In turn, these projects benefit the millions of Americans who depends on these species for hunting, birding, and other outdoor pursuits.

Current Funding:

The Congressional appropriation to fund the NAWCA Grants Program in FY 2014 was $31.175 million. Additional program funding comes from fines, penalties, and forfeitures collected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918; from Federal fuel excise taxes on small gasoline engines, as directed by amendments to the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, to benefit coastal ecosystem projects; and from interest accrued on the fund established under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937. In FY 2013 these other sources provided almost $31.5 million in additional grant funds.


From September 1990 through March 2014, approximately 5,000 partners in 2,421 projects have received nearly $1.3 billion in grants. They have contributed another $2.7 billion in matching funds to affect 27.5 million acres of habitat.


NAWCA was passed, in part, to support activities under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international agreement that provides a strategy for the longterm protection of wetlands and associated uplands habitats needed by waterfowl and other migratory birds in North America. In December 2002, Congress reauthorized NAWCA and expanded its scope to include the conservation of all habitats and birds associated with wetlands ecosystems. In 2006, Congress reauthorized NAWCA to extend its appropriation authorization of up to $75 million per year through 2012.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/advocacy/funding/land-conservation/duck-stamp/