U.S. Sen. Mark Begich welcomed progress on the Sportsmen's Act of 2012, which includes Begich's Duck Stamp provision to keep the Duck Stamp program viable for years to come. Begich has been pushing to get the bill back on track for passage since the Senate delayed final action over a budget technicality a week ago.
Begich has championed the Duck Stamp program since he came to the Senate, originally introducing the bill last March and testifying at its hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.
"I'm pleased to hear that a bipartisan group of Senators have reached a deal that will allow us to move forward on the Sportsmen's Act, which contains so many provisions important to Alaskans, including my Duck Stamp bill," Begich said.
Since it was created in 1934, the federal Duck Stamp program has raised more than $750 million and has preserved more than 5 million acres of wetlands to protect waterfowl habitat. It has been one of the most successful conservation tools in history, with 98 cents of every Duck Stamp dollar going directly to preserving and protecting wetlands. However, the $15 price for a stamp hasn't changed since 1991 and it has lost more than half its value due to inflation. Some adjustments to the price are necessary to keep the program viable.
Begich's bill allows the price of Duck Stamps to be adjusted for inflation and allows for limited waivers for subsistence users in recognition that so much of their traditional hunting grounds are already set aside as refuges or in other protected status. It also means Alaska Natives hunting for subsistence purposes don't have to buy a stamp.
Begich's bill allows the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Migratory Bird Commission to reevaluate the price of Duck Stamps every three years and adjust the price.
"Conservation goes hand in hand with hunting and fishing and the Duck Stamp program has played a vital role in preserving Alaska lands," Begich said. "I'm grateful to (Sportsmens' Act author) Sen. Jon Tester for his hard work on this package and pleased my amendment is in the overall bill to keep the Duck Stamp program productive and beneficial."
The Sportsmen's Act of 2012 will improve access to hunting and fishing on federal lands, end Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of lead ammunition and authorize several other vital conservation programs for wetlands, fish and wildlife. The Senate is currently in negotiations to place the bill on the calendar and Sen. Begich is optimistic it will see a vote this week.