Past Treasure of the Month – April 2011
The Rosenberg Library was pleased to share commemorative Duck Stamps as the April Treasure of the Month. Duck Stamps, or Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, were originally created in 1934 as federal licenses for hunting migratory waterfowl. Today, these pictorial stamps serve a much higher purpose as conservation fundraisers to raise awareness and money for the National Wildlife Refuge System and habitat preservation. Galveston Island’s own migratory bird and natural resource awareness program, Feather Fest, takes place during the second week of April.
In 1934, President Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, a bill designed to generate funds for wetland purchase for the National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s premiere network of conserved public lands and waters. These Migratory Bird, or Duck Stamps, serve as passes for hunters on wetlands, and the fine artwork on the stamps make them instant collectibles among hunters, nature enthusiasts, and art collectors alike. The term “duck stamp” is rather misleading. Duck stamps are not valid for postage and other migratory birds like geese and swans are often featured. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar generated from duck stamp purchases is revenue for the National Wildlife Refuge System and goes directly to the purchase or lease of wetland habitats. Over $750 million dollars have been generated from duck stamp sales, and these funds have helped purchase or lease 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States. These protected habitats have also allowed mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and plants that rely on the wetland areas to thrive and continue to ensure the safety of these vital ecosystems.
Each year’s duck stamp image is chosen through a federally supported contest and judged by a panel of artists and wildlife experts. The contest began in 1949 with 88 entries, and over 2,000 drawings were received in 1981. The Junior Duck Stamp Contest first began in 1989 as an arts and education curriculum that teaches the importance of wetlands to thousands of school children. Winning illustrations from junior state level contests compete for the honor to be turned into a stamp alongside the winning Federal Duck Stamp.
The Texas Coast and the Galveston Bay Area includes many National Wildlife Refuge Sites that are supported from the sales of Federal Duck Stamps — thirteen NWR sites exist in the entire state. Over five hundred species of birds reside, winter, or migrate through Southeast Texas and use the Galveston Bay estuary and wetlands system for food and shelter. This bay system is the largest and most productive on the Texas coast, providing nursery grounds for hundreds of species as well as contributing 1/3 of Texas commercial fishing income and ½ of the state’s recreational fishing income. The third largest concentration of recreational boats in the U.S. culminates in the Galveston Bay, according to the Galveston Bay Estuary Program. The Federal Duck Stamps are highly collectible and are honored art pieces around the nation. The stamps can be purchased at post offices and most major sporting goods centers. All nature enthusiasts, whether they are hunters, birders, conservationists, art collectors, or educators, are invited to purchase Federal Duck Stamps and help conserve wetland habitats. These stamps also serve as entrance passes to National Wildlife Refuges.
The Rosenberg Library’s collection of Federal Duck Stamps includes thirteen stamps ranging from 1945 through 1976. Donated to the Library in 1979 by Mr. Robert K. Hutchings, this collection of stamps shows the great variety of waterfowl present in the United States. Although the stamps are small, the quality of their images echo photographs and give viewers an awe-inspiring look at the beauty of America’s wetlands.