The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to revise regulations on the federal Duck Stamp contest that would delete a requirement to include a hunting-related aspect in the art.

Previously, under a rule added in 2018, in addition to using one of five pre-approved waterfowl species, qualifying entries had to include a hunting-related accessory such as blinds, hunting dogs, or waterfowl decoys in the image. That permanent “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” theme was part of an overall effort by the Trump administration to help grow the number of sportsmen taking to the country’s woods.

Now, beginning with the 2022 contest, the idea is that the ducks will stay but gone will be the hunting requirement. The agency says the proposed rule change would provide artists more flexibility and, perhaps, broaden the appeal of the Duck Stamp to more audiences.

"More than $1.1 billion in Duck Stamp sales have been used to acquire wetland habitats that help sequester carbon and contribute to addressing the impacts of climate change, purify water supplies, provide economic support to local communities and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities,” said USFWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Waterfowl hunters have been significant supporters of the program and have had a profound role in wetland and waterfowl conservation over the last century. The intent of this proposal is to allow artists more freedom of expression when designing their entries.”

All waterfowl hunters over age 16 are required to purchase a federal Duck Stamp each season to stay legal in the field, but collectors and outdoor enthusiasts also buy the stamp. In addition to its use in hunting regulation, a current federal Duck Stamp is good for free admission to any of the 567 national wildlife refuges that charge an entry fee. 

The USFWS falls under the Department of Interior, which is led by Debra Haaland, a controversial former chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico who was seen as being anti-gun in her confirmation hearings earlier this year. Staunchly opposed by Republicans and firearms groups, Haaland was confirmed by the slimmest margin possible in the Senate last March. Her nomination was supported by well-known anti-hunting groups such as WildEarth Guardians and the HSUS.

USFWS has opened a 30-day public comment period to solicit public input and feedback on the change. The deadline to submit comments is July 23. 

The current pro-hunting regulations are still in effect for the 2021 contest.  

Banner image: 2021-2022 Federal Duck Stamp. Credit: USFWS
 

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