Canada’s Duck Stamp-Paying For Conservation One Stamp At A Time

by Oct 3, 2019Conservation

“Blue – Canvasback” by Claude Thivierge is Canada’s Offcial 2019 Duck Stamp 

Early conservationists recognized that protecting migratory birds in North America required a unified approach to conservation between Canada and the United States. So, in 1916, Great Britain, on behalf of Canada, ratified the International Treaty for the Protection of Migratory Birds with the United States, which later became known as the Migratory Birds Convention or sometimes as the Migratory Birds Treaty.

Each country proceeded to create its own Migratory Bird Act, which turned the terms of the international Convention into law in each of the respective countries. There was a relatively high level of political will and support for conservation in North America in the early 20th century as more people were seeing the impacts to nature due to great nation building endeavours of both countries.

The vast majority of breeding habitat for waterfowl in North America is found in Canada’s prairie and boreal regions. In fact, Canada is referred to as the “duck factory” of North America. In 1935, Ducks Unlimited formed in the United States, and in 1937, Ducks Unlimited Canada was established. Restoring and protecting waterfowl habitat became a dominant theme in Canadian conservation for the next 60 years.

Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service worked together to acquire lands for waterfowl conservation, and Canada’s National Wildlife Areas were created. By 1976, 34 National Wildlife Areas had secured over 18,000 ha of key habitats. By 1978, however, federal funding for this conservation effort began to shrink. There was growing backlash that the Government of Canada should not be buying and owing land. By 1984, all federal funding for these land conservation projects had stopped.

The United States was ahead of Canada when it created a federal duck stamp program to fund waterfowl habitat conservation projects in its National Wildlife Refuge Areas in 1934. In 1984, a broad-based alliance of conservation groups in Canada submitted a proposal to the federal cabinet asking that Canada sell a duck stamp along with its federal migratory bird permit to hunters. In 1984, Canada’s federal cabinet approved the duck stamp revenue-generating idea as well as the Wildlife Habitat Trust Foundation, which would become the independent body that allocates funds from the stamp program to migratory bird conservation projects.

Biologists and conservationists in Canada and the United States continued to be concerned about the decline in North American waterfowl. Everyone agreed that habitat was the key to restoration and that protection had to be on a grand scale. Environment Canada and the United Sates Department of the Interior began conversations in 1977 that lead to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, which was ratified by both countries in 1986. In 1994, Mexico became a full partner in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

International committees were created as well as habitat joint ventures involving cost sharing for wildlife habitat conservation projects in North America. The over arching ethos of waterfowl conservation in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan centered on stewardship of waterfowl habitat on private land rather than land acquisition.

In 1996, the total contribution to Canadian waterfowl habitat projects had risen to around $320 million. $148 million came from the United States (that’s right, the United States invests in wildlife conservation in Canada), $74 million from Canadian provinces, $55 million from the government of Canada and $42 million from private sources in Canada. This was the grand scale thinking that helped realize an increase in waterfowl of 55 million birds in 1986 to 90 million in 1996.

The Wildlife Habitat Trust Foundation is now known as Wildlife Habitat Canada and it has invested over $55 million in grants to more than 1,500 habitat conservation projects across Canada. Funding comes from waterfowl hunters, who purchase the duck stamp with their waterfowl hunting permit for an additional nominal fee (i.e., $8.50 in 2019). Artwork used on the stamp is selected each year through an art competition and winners have included world-renowned Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman.

One of the key benefits of non-government wildlife funding organizations like Ducks Unlimited Canada and Wildlife Habitat Canada is their ability to leverage their revenue into even more dollars for wildlife. Since it’s inception, Wildlife Habitat Canada has leveraged the duck stamp revenue into $150 million for habitat conservation!

The great thing about contributing to waterfowl conservation in Canada, though, is you don’t have to be a waterfowl hunter to contribute to Wildlife Habitat Canada! You can purchase and collect Canada’s duck stamp as well as art prints of the winning artist’s work directly from their online store.

Whether you are a waterfowl hunter or not, everyone buying a duck stamp is helping pay for waterfowl habitat conservation in Canada one duck stamp at time.

Cover Image: © Wildlife Habitat Canada

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