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Conservation Efforts Are Set To Get A Boost — Thanks To The Duck Stamp

The federal government’s only juried art competition has spawned a book, a documentary film, and even a subplot in the movie “Fargo.” It has also helped to protect more than 6 million acres of wetland habitat across the United States. The winning painting in each year’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Duck Stamp contest appears on the Duck Stamp, the waterfowl hunter’s equivalent of a hunting license.

As I pointed out earlier this week, hunters provide a huge source of funding for conservation, and bird hunters are one example. By law, 98 percent of Duck Stamp proceeds must be spent on buying or leasing land or acquiring conservation easements for wetlands. In 1934, a stamp went for $1. The price rose in increments over the next 50 years until reaching its current cost of $15 in 1991. If, as expected, President Obama signs the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 — passed by the Senate this week and the House last month — the price will rise to $25.

In 2011-2012 (the most recent data available), about 1.5 million stamps were sold, so if sales remain similar (they’ve been flat over the past decade) the jump could translate to about $15 million in additional conservation money. The increased funds will allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire approximately 7,000 additional acres, and approximately 10,000 additional conservation easement acres annually, said Rachel Levin, communications coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Bird Habitat Conservation.

There’s a nice gallery of stamp contest entries here.

Christie Aschwanden was a lead science writer for FiveThirtyEight. Her book “Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery” is available here.