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.
A bill to raise the price of a duck stamp from $15 to $25 was introduced in the U.S. Senate in December. This would be the first price increase since 1991, when the $15 fee was adopted.
This is a very good idea. We should hope that Congress sees this revenue increase -- a fee, not a tax -- with eyes rarely focused on benefit these days.
Duck stamp money is used to buy land for national wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas. This is land viewed at the program's beginning as vital to waterfowl. True, and vital as well to thousands of species of animals, insects, plants and more. It is important to hundreds of species of songbirds.
The boost to $25 is necessary because of continuing increase in land values. What was purchased for $15 in 1991 cannot be purchased for that amount today. There's a gap of about 40 percent.
Since its beginning, the duck stamp has raised more than $750 million used to protect more than 6 million acres of habitat. Minnesota is part of what is known as the prairie pothole region, pothole describing small ponds and wetlands used for nesting by ducks. We have 7,000 such waterfowl production areas totaling 675,000 acres. This is bird habitat. We need more.
Land value here has risen from an average of $400 per acre to $1,400 per acre since 1998. That's a jump of 250 percent, an increase out of reach even if the stamp costs $25. That is no reason not to raise the price. We gotta do what we can when we can.
Support the price increase if you have the opportunity (like write your Congressional representatives). And if you have yet to buy the current duck stamp, do so. For each of your dollars, 98 cents is used to conserve wetland habitat. That's the best conservation bargain to be found. Buy that stamp.
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