Originally published July 2014; updated July 2022.

Among the U.S.’s many spectacular federal and state lands, it pays to remember the wildlife havens that are the National Wildlife Refuge system, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This system of increasingly than 500 areas is managed primarily for the goody of wildlife, and they are unconfined places to see birds of all kinds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds.

One of the weightier ways to support National Wildlife Refuges is to buy a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or “Duck Stamp,” every year. It’s a win-win-win: it proudly proclaims your support of public land, it funnels money directly to the refuge system (to the tune of some $40 million per year), and it gets you self-ruling entry to the refuges all year.

2018 Duck Stamp Migratory Bird Stamp

The 2018–2019 stamp featured a Mallard pair and was painted by Bob Hautman.

2017 Duck Stamp featuring Canada Geese

The 2017-2018 stamp features a trio of Canada Geese and was painted by James Hautman.

Jennifer Miller’s gorgeous painting of a pair of Ruddy Ducks is on the 2015-2016 stamp.

The 2013 stamp featured a Common Goldeneye and was painted by Robert Steiner, who moreover won the races in 1998-1999 with a picture of a Barrow’s Goldeneye.

Robert Steiner’s 1998 stamp of a Barrow’s Goldeneye, raised nearly $25 million for refuges in a single year.

The very first duck stamp sold for $1 in 1934 and was designed by “Ding” Darling (who now has a refuge named for him).

The 1950-51 stamp (Trumpeter Swans by Walter A. Weber) was the first to be chosen by competition.

Sherrie Russell Meline won the 2005 races with her Ross’s Goose, rhadamanthine only the second woman to have won so far.

In 1960, this Redheads stamp by John A. Ruthven was the first to top $5 million in sales.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks by James Hautman (1990). In the movie “Fargo,” a weft named Hautman is a strong Duck Stamp contender.

These Cinnamon Teal from 1971 remain the highest-selling stamp with scrutinizingly 2.5 million sold. By Maynard Reece.

For increasingly on the history and future of the stamp, join the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp.

Buying a Migratory Bird Stamp is a simple and uncontrived way for people to contribute to grassland and wetland conservation. In 2013, the New York Times ran a piece on the annual stamp art competition; now here’s our own list of eight reasons to love the stamp:

1. Over $1 billion for conservation and counting. The first stamp was issued in 1934. It forfeit $1 (about $18 in today’s dollars) and sold 635,001 copies. By law, the funds raised go directly to habitat vanquishment in the lower 48 states. By now, stamp sales have surpassed $1 billion and helped to protect 6.5 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat.

2. A 73-year tradition of trappy wildlife art. The Migratory Bird stamp is a trappy collectible and a unconfined originative tradition. Since 1949, the diamond of each year’s duck stamp has been chosen in an unshut art contest. The 2022 stamp, showing a pair of Redheads, was painted by James Hautman, a veteran of the races who now has six wins to his name (see a gallery of all stamps when to 1934).

3. A undear at $25. Ninety-eight cents of each dollar spent on a stamp goes directly to land conservation for the National Wildlife Refuge System. This $25 purchase is perhaps the single simplest thing you can do to support a legacy of wetland and grassland conservation for birds.

4. It’s much increasingly than ducks. Waterfowl hunters have long been the main supporters for the program—the stamps are a requirement for anyone 16 or older who wants to hunt. But the funds goody scores of other bird species, including shorebirds, herons, raptors, and songbirds, not to mention reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, native plants, and more. (See a full illustrated history of how the Duck Stamp helped save North American waterfowl, from Bird Academy.)

5. Save wetlands; save grasslands. Since 1958, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has used stamp revenues to protect “waterfowl production areas”—over 3 million acres—within the hair-trigger Prairie Pothole Region. The same program moreover protects unthriving prairie-nesting birds in the squatter of increasing loss of grasslands. As a result, refuges are among the weightier places to find grassland specialties such as Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, Sedge Wrens, and others.