I just put up a post in 10,000 Birds reporting on a recent study of duck stamp sales and duck hunting. There have been changes in recent years in the patterns of both waterfowl hunting and the purchase and use of federal duck stamps. Waterfowl hunters are required to have a duck stamp, and about 90% of the funds raised through the sale of these artistic quasi-philatic devices are used to secure wildlife preservation areas. For decades, duck population numbers and duck stamp sales were closely correlated, but recently this correlation has broken down. Read the post to find out the details and possible explanations.
There has been a discussion about the idea of developing a federal wildlife stamp that bird watchers or other nature enthusiasts could buy, either voluntarily or as a requirement for access to certain wildlife areas, to supplement wildlife protection projects. Such a stamp would also bring non-hunters to the table and secure a position for them as stakeholders in conservation policy making. While hunters clearly contribute to wildlife protection (up to the point that they pull the trigger and shoot a wild thing, that is!) it is also true that non-hunters both benefit from wildlife protection and would like to do more to make a contribution. The current situation in many states seems to be that hunters have more of an influence in conservation policy than perhaps they should given that they are only one part of the equation. But licensing fees for hunting, including duck stamp sales, may give hunters more of a voice in the process than one would expect in considering the diverse range of individuals who support and benefit from conservation. A wildlife stamp would help increase available funds for these projects and result in a more even distribution of influence.
Again, go read the post for more details.
There are times when "shoot[ing] a wild thing" directly contributes to wildlife protection. If you banned deer hunting in the eastern U.S. without simultaneously re-introducing large predators [which is a nice idea, but a political impossibility], you would see deer populations skyrocket, eat everything in sight, then start dying of famine and disease. Shooting deer is actually good for the deer as a group, not to mention the endangered plants they might eat as they are starving, nor the other animals who depend on the habitats they might eat. This shouldn't be a shocker. We don't think that other predatory animals are bad for the ecosystem because they hunt, after all.
As America boasts binoculars and shotguns in roughly equal abundance, I applaud Greg's proposal to make birders into supporters of conservation on the same scale.
The duck's best friend carries a shotgun. I think I made that up, but I may have read it somewhere. I recall reading a conversation where a birder was asking why an public area was open to duck hunting and closed for other activities. The answer was that the duck hunters paid for the area, therefore their use took precedence during the duck season,
I understand that the few pieces of natural, unfarmed areas along the Illinois River are the lands of private duck clubs.
I should point out that stamp collectors are another big source of the purchase of duck stamps up till recently they have tended to increase in value over time.
I like the idea of wildlife stamps. Birding in one province (Ontario) brought in more money than hunting did in all of Canada by a couple orders of magnitude in the early 90s. Hazy memory says 4 billion vs 4 million but I don't trust that. Also, I'm curious what it is now as hunters are declining.
But if we could tap into a bit of the money being spent by just birders we may not have to cut services and close some of our parks.
"The duck’s best friend carries a shotgun."
My best friend carries a pair of binoculars.
Jim, that may be true but the study I wrote about shows that the link is breaking down. Others need to step up to the plate.
Lyle, the total number of duck stamps that are sold to non hunters ... people supporting the wildlife conservation effort plus stamp collectors ... has historically been below about 10%. It is not a trivial number, but it is not a driving force. (Source: Adams, C. E., J. A. Leifester, and J. S. C. Herron. 1997. Understanding wildlife constituents: birders and waterfowl hunters. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25:653–660. cited in the paper I refer to in the OP)
Duck makes a valid point as well.