The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a new rule this week on the Federal Duck Stamp contest, dropping the requirement to include a hunting-related aspect in the art.

This final rule removes the “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” theme and the mandatory inclusion of an appropriate hunting element starting with the 2022 Federal Duck Stamp Contest. It came after a proposal and public feedback period that drew just 204 comments. 

The move is a quiet rollback of a 2018 rule that added a requirement to include a hunting-related accessory such as blinds, hunting dogs, or waterfowl decoys in the traditional waterfowl image. 

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. 

However, although the stamp is mandated for duck and goose hunters to purchase, the USFWS felt the inclusion of a hunting theme drew dissatisfaction from some artists and members of the public.

More anti-hunting efforts ahead?

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.

The duck stamp rule change comes as two additional anti-hunting groups – the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council – are pushing the Interior Department to publish a rule banning the legal transport of harvested wild animals and most birds across state lines, in effect blaming pandemics on sportsmen traveling for out-of-state hunts.

"Since the USFWS regulates interstate transportation and importation of wild animals, that’s a death knell to hunting in the United States," notes the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the American firearms industry, on the proposal. "That means the trophy Texas buck wouldn’t be able to be brought home to Virginia, or South Dakota pheasants to South Carolina. A lifetime dream hunt of a Rocky Mountain elk would never fill a Florida freezer and an Alaska bear rug would never be able to come home to Oklahoma."

In addition to the circa 1934 Duck Stamp Act, which has generated more than $1.1 billion – largely from American hunters – over the years for the preservation of over 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat, the firearms industry has helped provide $12 billion since 1937 for state conservation initiatives through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which levies an 11-percent excise tax on consumer firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment produced in the country. 

Banner image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer speaks with a hunter at William L. Finely National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: National Archives)

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