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ADG: Boozman’s duck stamp bill heads to White House

Boozman’s bipartisan measure would allow digital version

Dec 18 2023

WASHINGTON -- Legislation allowing hunters to utilize an electronic version of the federal duck stamp awaits President Joe Biden's signature.

Both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly approved the Duck Stamp Modernization Act during the year. The Senate passed the legislation through unanimous consent in July -- meaning the body expedited the bill's passage without needing to take a roll call vote -- and the House voted 403-20 in support of the legislation last Tuesday.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., of Rogers led the bipartisan effort in the Senate. While the House approved its version of the bill in September, Congress' lower chamber moved to pass Boozman's measure as part of its final votes for the calendar year.

Arkansas' four House members -- Republicans Rick Crawford of Jonesboro, French Hill of Little Rock, Steve Womack of Rogers and Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs -- supported the Duck Stamp Modernization Act.

"What this is about is just making it such that those who do enjoy duck hunting can do it in an easier fashion," Boozman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Boozman steered the Senate effort alongside Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; and Angus King, I-Maine. All four senators are leaders on the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, a bicameral coalition focused on hunting, fishing and similar outdoor recreation.

Westerman is part of the caucus as a House co-chair.

"We had a great mix of co-sponsors from both parties, and that's how you get things done," Boozman said.

Waterfowl hunters who are 16 or older must buy a $25 federal duck stamp to hunt in addition to other necessary documents, such as a hunting license and state duck stamps.

Money collected from duck stamp purchases supports conservation efforts. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the program has generated more than $1.1 billion since the first stamp in 1934.

Hunters can purchase federal duck stamps at post offices, outdoor recreation stores and national wildlife refuges. Individuals can also buy duck stamps online; a hunter can use an electronic receipt for 45 days amid the wait for a physical stamp to arrive in the mail.

Hunters, however, have faced problems receiving their stamps on time. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director Austin Booth understands this dilemma from first-hand experience.

"I purchased my 2021 federal duck stamp in September 2021, and I did not receive it until June 2022," he said. "From a regulatory and compliance perspective, that meant that I had to purchase another federal duck stamp for the 2021-22 season if I wanted to stay legal."

According to Booth, directors of several state game commissions have been interested in allowing hunters to carry a digital version of the federal duck stamp on their cell phones.

"There were hunters in their states that were experiencing the same thing," Booth said.

Some states allow hunters to manage hunting licenses and other certifications through smartphone apps. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offers an app for such a purpose.

"Then you have this one federal program that didn't allow you to have the duck stamp on your smartphone," said Taylor Schmitz, the federal relations director with the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.

The organization is affiliated with multiple governing groups focused on sportsmen's issues and conservation, including the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.

"To be able to synthesize and modernize that program is really a step in the right direction," Schmitz added.

Boozman described the bill as getting the federal duck stamp program "into this century."

"We've got all of this technology. We need to take advantage of it," he said.

Booth said the federal legislation will allow the electronic proof of purchase to "satisfy the regulations."

Ducks Unlimited, a nationwide waterfowl and wetlands conservation organization, celebrated the bill's passage. During an interview with the Democrat-Gazette, senior communications manager Parker Williams called the legislation a "common-sense, quality-of-life update for duck hunters."

"For the sake of argument, if you show up to your buddy's house and you realize you left your stamp behind, you can just hop online and buy another one instead of scrambling to find a sporting goods store or a post office carrying the stamp," Kellis Moss, Ducks Unlimited's managing director of federal affairs, told the Democrat-Gazette.

The Department of the Interior will continue issuing paper stamps to people even if they make an electronic purchase.

While waterfowl hunters need to buy a federal duck stamp to hunt, there is an active scene of collectors interested in the stamp's annual art contest showcasing ducks in their natural habitat.

To read the story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette click here.