US Fish & Wildlife Service



Date of this Version



U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, March 2000


As our appreciation of migratory birds and our understanding of their role in the natural world grows, it’s important to recognize the critical contributions of sportsmen to migratory bird conservation efforts. For more than 60 years, hunters have provided a steady stream of revenue to build the National Wildlife Refuge System, and to restore waterfowl habitat on millions of acres of public and private lands across the country. These habitat projects also benefit migratory songbirds and other wildlife.

In the early 1930s, the accumulated impacts of plundered forests, heedlessly plowed grasslands, and commercial exploitation of wildlife from the turn of the century were brought sharply into focus by the worst drought and the worst economic depression in America’s history. People realized something needed to be done. With a handful of farsighted conservationists leading the way, organized sportsmen were instrumental in the creation of two programs that changed the course of wildlife conservation.

The Duck Stamp Program

On March 16, 1934, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. Popularly known as the Duck Stamp Act, it required all waterfowl hunters 16 years or older to buy a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp annually.

In the years since its enactment, the Federal Duck Stamp Program has generated more than $501 million that has been used to preserve nearly five million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States. Many of the more than 500 national wildlife refuges have been paid for all or in part by Duck Stamp money.

Waterfowl are not the only wildlife to benefit from Federal Duck Stamps. Numerous other birds, wildlife and plants have similarly prospered because of habitat protection made possible by the program. Further, an estimated one third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species find food or shelter in refuges preserved by Duck Stamp funds.

Outdoor enthusiasts have gained places to hike, bird watch or merely visit. Moreover, the protected wetlands help dissipate storms, purify water supplies, store flood water and provide food for many migratory birds.

In recent years, Duck Stamp sales to hunters have declined as the number of Americans who hunt has decreased. The proportion of Duck Stamps purchased by non-hunters, however, has increased nearly 360 percent. Non-hunters now account for 13.4 percent of Duck Stamp sales, contributing millions of dollars to wetland restoration efforts.