Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
The 2013-14 duck stamp is now on sale at a post office near you. The stamp is officially known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation stamp. Costing $15, funds raised by stamp sales are used to purchase or lease land for national wildlife refuges (NWR) and waterfowl production areas (WPA).
The cost of the stamp is a small but important element in wildlife and habitat protection. Waterfowl hunters must buy a stamp to hunt legally. Everyone who enjoys wildlife, however, should buy a stamp, maybe two. Far more non-game bird species use both refuges and WPAs than do game species. Non-hunters benefit far more than hunters, yet hunters have historically carried the weight in this preservation effort. Birders -- anyone who enjoys wild lands -- need to contribute.
Minnesota has 12 national wildlife refuges, one just below the southern approach to the Twin Cities International Airport. It’s one of the few urban refuges in the country. All of the refuges are excellent places to see birds and hundreds of other plant and animal species.
Less well known but equally important when it comes to conservation are the federal waterfowl production areas. Minnesota has about 700 WPAs totaling more than 125,000 acres. They’re scattered throughout 28 counties in the western part of the state. All belong to you. They’re open for birding, hiking, photography, and most non-motorized outdoor activities. They too are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants. Three of the WPAs area are as close to the Twin Cities as Scott and Carver counties. You can find a map at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/maps/compass.html. This map also shows all public state and national recreation land – parks, wildlife management areas, scientific and natural areas …. everything. It’s a very useful map.
You can find a list of 266 bird species that have been recorded on the national waterfowl production areas at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/chekbird/r3/mnwpa.htm
Nationally, there are nearly 7,000 WPAs preserving more than 675,000 acres of habitat. Most of the land is grassland, wetland, ponds and potholes, land in traditional waterfowl areas, land suitable for breeding and nesting. Minnesota and the Dakotas account for almost all of these WPAs. This land is but two percent of the prairie pothole region, but accounts for 23 percent of waterfowl production. The number of non-waterfowl birds of various species produced on this land is so large as to be uncountable.
Most post offices sell duck stamps. So do many sporting goods stores. Fifteen dollars, 98 percent of which is used for land purchase or lease. No kidding. This is probably the most fiscally efficient government program ever. Buy a stamp for yourself. Buy one for a birding friend or relative. Show it off. I stick mine to the cover of my Sibley field guide. The new stamp carries an image of a Common Goldeneye painted by artist Robert Steiner of San Francisco.
You can learn more about the stamp and help promote its purchase at www.friendsofthestamp.org.
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