FoA sues FWS for making hunting imagery mandatory on federal Duck Stamp
Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit in Connecticut district court against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its new rule that went into effect in May making hunting imagery a mandatory part of the federal Duck Stamp Contest.
Wildlife artists annually vie for the prestige of seeing their art grace each new Duck Stamp, which waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required by law to purchase and carry with their general hunting license.
Ninety-percent of the annual $25 purchase price goes directly to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to acquire and protect wetland habitat vital to the survival of migratory waterfowl and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The beauty of the stamp is that anyone can contribute to conservation by buying them, and they can also be used as free passes into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee. Birders, photographers, artists, stamp collectors and others who don’t get off on killing birds are doing just that, thankfully, because the number of hunters in the U.S. continues to plummet.
“There were not even one million Americans hunting waterfowl in 2015, yet there were 86 million Americans enjoying wildlife watching in 2016. Do the math—this takes the cake as one of the most ludicrous, anti-wildlife, anti-conservation measures the administration has implemented,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals.
“It’s almost comical the desperate lengths the dwindling hunting industry is willing to go to make its clients feel relevant. But jeopardizing crucial wetland habitat protection is not a laughing matter, so we had to take legal action,” she said.
FoA’s lawsuit states that FWS’ new rule has the potential to reduce funding for the Duck Stamp program by alienating people who do not support hunting and that the agency should have undertaken an environmental analysis to look at the likely negative effects of reduced funding.
“Roughly 85% of public comments opposed the new rule. Ironically, even many hunters objected to the new imagery requirement,” said Adam Kreger, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program’s animal law fellow. “Some commenters stated they would not participate in the program if the rule took place, comments which FWS ignored or downplayed in violation of the Administrative Protection Act.”
Since 1934, Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $950 million to help clean water, aid in flood control, reduce soil erosion, enhance recreation opportunities and protect more than 5.7 million acres of habitat.
“Hunting participation—and corresponding Duck Stamp sales—peaked 50 years ago. We need more people buying Duck Stamps, not fewer,” Kreger said. “The Duck Stamp program cannot survive on only the funds from waterfowl hunters.”