Congress OKs electronic duck stamp to fund conservation

Amid a raucous, divisive windup to the 113th Congress, members found agreement on bringing duck stamps into the electronic age.

Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who sponsored a measure to create a nationwide electronic duck stamp for hunting licenses that channels large sums for wetlands conservation, announced its passage on Monday. The House version of the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, passed by a vote of 401-0, meaning the bill now awaits only President Barack Obama’s signature.

Produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the pictorial stamps are formally known as Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps and were first created in 1934 as federal licenses for hunting waterfowl. For every dollar paid for a duck stamp today, 98 cents goes to wetlands conservation and habitat protection.

The stamps also now serve as an entrance pass to federal wildlife refuges that charge admission.

Wicker’s bill allows hunters to obtain a federal duck stamp electronically, at no extra cost to the government, his office said. It moved forward after a successful trial program aimed at simplifying the process of issuing duck stamps in several states.

The bill will make the stamps available in all 50 states, directing the funds to an array of conservation projects.

Senate co-sponsors of the bill included a bipartisan group, among them Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.