The Federal Duck Stamp is, without doubt, one of the most effective conservation initiatives in the history of the United States, or any nation for that matter. We at the ABA have gone on record as being a strong supporter of birder purchased Duck Stamps to make a statement for habitat conservation.
But if the Duck Stamp has a drawback, it's in the fact that birder contributions are effectively masked as the US Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't track purchaser intent. Our money, then, is thrown in the pool with everyone else - including those who are legally required to purchase the stamp - and as such it's difficult, if not impossible, to really gauge our collective influence and mobilize for our own legitimate interests, which occasionally conflict with those of our sportsman friends.
There are those in the birding community who have longed for a stamp of our own, one which not only finally puts a number on birder engagement in conservation issues but which offers a separate and collaborative stream of funds for research and management of non-game wildlife. Corey Finger, ABA member and blogmeister of 10,000 Birds has drafted a petition currently raking in signatures at whitehouse.gov suggesting just that. If the birding community can attach 25,000 signatures to it, we'll get an official response from the Obama Administration.
It's important to note two things here.
First, this is in no way intended to be a replacement for, or competition with, the Duck Stamp program. The ABA fully supports the federal Duck Stamp and will continue to encourage birders to contribute to this incredible long-standing and productive initiative that has effectively built the National Wildlife Refuge system that so many of us enjoy.
Second, this is admittedly a non-binding petition intended as a show of support for birder-initiated conservation programs. Yes, a reponse from the Obama Administration would be nice if for no other reason than it shows that we birders can be a force for conservation and bird-welfare interests, but more than that, birders should sign this because we want to show that we are an interest group to which policy makers should be listening. It can't hurt to have as many ways as possible to make that plain.
So please consider signing the petition. Many of us at the ABA have done so and we fully support the action taken here.