National Issues

National monuments matter to Americans — Preserve the Antiquities Act

By Judith Kohler

From Wildlife Promise

Top-down or grassroots — it’s all a matter of perspective.

Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho has introduced a bill, S. 228, to block presidents from establishing national monuments. In a news release, Crapo criticized “top-down national monument designations” as potentially harmful to the local economy and public access.

But from the perspective of communities in Crapo’s home state, to Montana, Colorado and New Mexico, federal legislation blocking use of the Antiquities Act might look like a “top-down” response to public-lands management.

In fact, recent monument designations have been the result of years of work and lobbying by diverse community coalitions. In other words, the president was responding to grassroots campaigns, just as other chief executives from both political parties have since 1906.

After Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico was declared a national monument in 2013, Kent Salazar, the Western vice chairman of National Wildlife Federation’s board of directors said: “We’ve been working on this for 15 years. Hunters and anglers support protecting Rio Grande del Norte. Environmentalists, ranchers and businesses support it. Native Americans have been hunting and fishing this area forever.”

National monuments matter to Americans

Approval of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014 was propelled by widespread public support. “We’ve been working on this for more than a decade. Sportsmen, many of whom own local businesses, have been diligently reaching out to community leaders and elected officials to make permanent protection of these important lands a reality,”  John Cornell of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation said after President Barack Obama proclaimed the nearly half-million-acre area a national monument.

In Idaho and Colorado, many hunters, anglers, wildlife advocates and other outdoor enthusiasts would like to join the celebration. Members of Sportsmen for Boulder-White Clouds support using the Antiquities Act as the “clearest path” to conserving the world-class fishing and hunting country in central Idaho because legislation has failed so far.

“I think sportsmen and conservationists in Idaho are tired of waiting,” Idaho Wildlife Federation Executive Director Michael Gibson told a reporter. “People have been working on protections in the Boulder-White Clouds for 50 years.”

For more than two decades, Coloradans have been hoping to see Browns Canyon made a national monument to maintain the rugged backcountry, hunting, fishing and whitewater rafting that draws people from across the country. Former Sen. Mark Udall, Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper called on President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to establish a monument after legislation failed to advance in the 113th Congress. More than 500 people signed up to speak during a meeting in December that was attended by federal officials seeking public comments. Former Rep. Joel Hefley, who saw his Browns Canyon bill stall in 2006 due to “Washington-style politics at their worst,” wrote a recent op-ed urging action.

“I’m hoping that we’ve finally pushed this thing through. It certainly deserves that protection after all these years and all the support we’ve generated,” Bill Dvorak, NWF public lands organizer and longtime rafting guide in Browns Canyon, told The Denver Post after the meeting in December.

Conserve our public treasures; Preserve the Antiquities Act

All the public, grassroots support would mean little if a president, who, after study and listening to community requests, would still have to win congressional approval to establish a new national monument. After all, congressional gridlock and ideological objections to conserving public lands are the reasons people to push for action under the Antiquities Act in the first place.

“It is critical that states and affected stakeholders where a monument could be located play a key role in the decision-making process,” Crapo said when he announced his bill to fundamentally change the Antiquities Act.

What really is critical is that Americans have another avenue when Congress ignores affected stakeholders and communities. It is critical to preserve the Antiquities Act, which gave us Grand Canyon National Park, Muir Woods National Monument, the Statue of Liberty National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument…and many, many more.

Groups sue EPA for approving insecticide despite threat to endangered species

By Kelly House

The Oregonian

Conservationists who argue a newly approved insecticide is a known killer of bees and other pollinators plan to sue the federal government for letting it go to market.

The groups, including West Linn-based Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety, notified the Environmental Protection Agency of their intent to sue over flupyradifurone, a compound manufactured by Bayer CropScience.

The plaintiffs allege EPA regulators disobeyed federal rules requiring them to consult with federal wildlife agencies before approving a substance known to kill endangered animals.

Flupyradifurone is part of a growing class of insecticides engineered to seep into a plant’s system, rather than simply coating the outside. These so-called systemic insecticides include neonicotinoids, chemicals that have been implicated for playing a role in mass bee die-offs in Oregon and other states.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture this month banned the use four types of neonicotinoids on linden trees after identifying the chemicals as culprits in a series of mass bee die-offs in recent months. An agency spokeswoman said ODA is looking to the federal government for further guidance on pesticide regulations.

The EPA announced its decision to approve flupyradifurone Jan. 21 with a press release promoting the chemical as “safer for bees.”

“Laboratory-based studies indicate that the compound is practically non-toxic to adult honeybees,” the release stated. “Studies show no adverse effect on overall bee colony performance.”

The plaintiffs disagree with that characterization. EPA researchers concluded the compound was safer for colonies because it kills individual bees on site, preventing them from carrying the chemical back to the hive where it could sicken other bees.

“Having the bees drop dead in the field rather than poisoning their whole hive is not something you want to write home about,” said Lori Ann Burd, a Portland-based environmental health director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Plus, Burd said, the EPA’s statements about colony safety fail to account for the thousands of solitary bee species that don’t live in hives.

The label accompanying containers of flupyradifurone acknowledges the substance “may have effects on endangered species.” Plaintiffs say because of that, the agency was legally obligated to consult with federal wildlife agencies before approving the insecticide. It didn’t.

“EPA cannot absolve its responsibilities to comply with the Endangered Species Act merely by acknowledging the harm to endangered species that exposure to Flupyradifurone will cause,” the group told EPA administrator Gina McCarthy in a letter notifying her of their plans to sue.

The EPA has 60 days to respond, or the matter goes to court.

NWF backs Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act; urges enhanced conservation

The National Wildlife Federation commends the sponsors of bipartisan sportsmen’s legislation for supporting increased conservation funding and improved access to public lands and encourages Congress to strengthen conservation measures and efforts to expand public access for hunting, angling and other wildlife-related recreation.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Thursday on the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 by Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

“The National Wildlife Federation has more than a million hunters and anglers across our national organization and 49 state affiliates, so we’re encouraged by legislation that would increase conservation funding and improve access to public lands for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. We’re glad the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act would reauthorize programs to leverage public and private funds for fish and wildlife habitat and provide funding to open landlocked public tracts to sportsmen and others,” NWF CEO and President Collin O’Mara said. “As the bill advances we hope Congress considers including additional habitat conservation and sportsmen access measures and works to reauthorize such key programs as the Land and Water Conservation Act. Collectively, these actions would make this session a truly landmark year for wildlife and sportsmen and ensure that the outdoor legacy built by previous bipartisan efforts lives on indefinitely.”

In a letter to Murkowski and Heinrich, NWF praised provisions that would have “a direct positive impact on hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation,” including:

♦ Measures identifying public lands now inaccessible to hunting, fishing and other activities and directing that 1.5 percent of Land and Water Conservation funds be used to open those areas to the public.

♦ Reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act, which allows public agencies to acquire private in-holdings from willing landowners to enhance conservation and public access.

♦ Reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which leverage public and private funds for habitat and conservation projects.

However, NWF expressed concern that the legislation includes fewer proactive conservation measures than previous sportsmen’s proposals. Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Act, approval of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act and stronger efforts to combat harmful invasive species are among the provisions NWF encouraged Congress to add to the bill.

“Wildlife habitat conservation, especially on our nation’s public lands, is essential to providing quality hunting and angling experiences – over eighty percent of the most critical habitat for elk and deer and over fifty percent of the nation’s blue ribbon trout streams are found on public lands,” NWF wrote.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation generate an estimated of $646 billion in spending yearly and support 6.1 million direct jobs.

A section of the bill NWF wants to see dropped or changed would exempt the use of lead in hunting and fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. NWF is concerned that a legislative exemption will undermine the incentive for sportsmen to continue voluntarily reducing the use of lead to minimize the impacts on fish and wildlife.

Urge support for S. 405: The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015

From the National Shooting Sports Foundation

Contact your Senators at 202-224-3121 or email them and urge them to cosponsor S.405, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

This week, anti-hunting forces in an attempt to derail the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, sent Humane Society of the United States’ Wayne Pacelle to Capitol Hill to testify in opposition to this pro-hunting, pro-sportsmen legislation. It is imperative that your Senators hear from you in support of this bipartisan bill – the most important proactive piece of legislation to hunters and sportsmen in a generation.

In his testimony, Pacelle told the committee, “I want to be clear that the Humane Society of the United States is not opposed to hunting.” Really? Then how do you explain your quote from an article in the Associated Press? “If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.”

But it’s not just sport hunting. Pacelle also said he would campaign against people hunting for food and HSUS has worked to restrict deer hunting in New York, wolf hunting in the Great Lakes region, bear hunting in Maine and all big-game hunting in California.

Senators from both sides of the aisle have worked together to craft a proposal that would protect the use of traditional ammunition made with lead components, increase access to public lands for hunters and other sportsmen, and increase flexibility for shooting ranges to build and maintain facilities to create more opportunities for everyone to enjoy the shooting sports.

Your Senators need to hear from our side so that radical, anti-hunting, anti-sportsmen activists don’t derail this legislation.

Call your Senators at 202-224-3121 or email them today and urge them to sign on as a cosponsor to S.405, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

Group calls for changes in collection of data at wind developments

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to institute a new system of pre-construction risk assessment and bird and bat mortality data collection in connection with hundreds of thousands of bird (and bat) deaths being caused by wind turbines and the likelihood that that number could substantially exceed one million deaths when the industry reaches its full build out capacity by 2030 or before.

The ABC proposal was made in a letter to Department of Interior and FWS pursuant to their request for comments on information collection in connection with their land-based wind energy guidelines. It follows the entering of a guilty plea on January 6 from PacifiCorp that will require the company to pay $2.5 million in fines, restitution and community service for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act by killing 38 Golden Eagles and 336 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms.

ABC is asking FWS to institute a pre-construction risk assessment and bird mortality data collection that are based on:

  • studies conducted by independent, qualified expertsselected by the FWS or a trusted consulting company hired by FWS;
  • costs being borne by wind energy companies;
  • all reports sent directly to the FWS, and not through the wind energy company, which would then have no opportunity to edit or alter the reports to their advantage;
  • reports being made available to the public to add an additional layer of scrutiny; and
  • mandatory requirement to conduct independent Environmental Assessments (EA) and obtain incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act when protected species are present.

The ABC letter commended the FWS for formally recognizing, in their comment solicitation, that there may be serious problems with their current voluntary system of siting and operational guidelines for the wind industry, which is based largely on self-reporting. The solicitation said that: “We are currently in the process of evaluating the efficacy and use of the Guidelines and the Service is considering regulatory options. Based on feedback from the wind energy industry and from Service staff, the Guidelines are often successful in improving communication and lead to development of wind projects that are safer for wildlife, but in other cases are not successful in preventing wind energy facilities from being constructed in areas of high risk to wildlife.”

ABC objected to the statement “often successful,” asserting that there are no data to support such a statement. ABC is calling on FWS to “trust but verify” in regard to bird mortality data collection and monitoring, citing a wide range of problems with the current system, including:

♦ industry-paid consultants that downplay the potential impact of wind energy facilities on federally-protected birds and bats during the Environmental Assessment development process;

♦ attempts by the wind industry to site wind energy in highly sensitive areas for birds (e.g., Mill Creek in Missouri, Camp Perry in Ohio, Apple Blossom in Michigan, etc.);

♦ industry-paid consultants who collect data on post-construction fatalities and report unverified and potentially incorrect data to regulators;

♦ lack of fatality reporting by existing wind energy facilities; and

♦ efforts to hide bird and bat fatality data from the public.

The ABC letter charges that “…wind energy companies should not be collecting their own fatality data, as it is a direct conflict of interest. Industry does not share mortality data with the public and FWS contends that the data are owned by the companies. ABC contends they only ‘own’ the data because of the system that FWS has set up, which is based entirely on self-reporting.”

ABC had additional concerns with current federal plans to have the American Wind and Wildlife Institute (AWWI) retain bird and bat mortality data. Under that plan, AWWI would sign a confidentiality agreement with wind energy companies and would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. “This seems like a less-than-veiled attempt to continue to keep the public and concerned NGOs in the dark,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign and author of the letter.

Report connects polluting industries with their political spending

By Kimberly Williams

Clean Water Network

I thought you might be interested in some of the information in Polluting Politics, Environment America’s report on the massive amounts of money that polluters spend to influence decision makers and ensure they can keep damaging our waterways.

It’s no secret that the same polluting industries that are fouling our waterways also contribute to political campaigns and lobby lawmakers. But just how much money are the biggest polluters spending?

Last summer, Environment America Research and Policy Center’s Wasting Our Waterways report used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) to show just how much toxic pollution entered our waterways and watersheds across the country in 2012, breaking the data down by polluter and by parent company. This report takes that data and matches it up with campaign contributions and lobbying reports to paint the picture of what massive resources the nation’s biggest polluters are able to put into stopping progress for our waterways.

Highlights from the report:

  • For each state, the report names a company that is dumping massive amounts of toxics into local waterway and also polluting our politics with political spending. Some examples include:
    • The Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation plant in Ottumwa, IA dumped 2,889,989 lbs. of toxic pollution into the Lower Des Moines River watershed in 2012. The following year, Cargill spent more than $1.4 million lobbying Congress.
    • In Rosemount, MN, the Flint Hills Resources’ Pine Bend Refinery dumped 739,982 lbs. of toxic chemicals into the watershed of the Rush and Vermillion Rivers. Flint Hills Resources is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, the Koch brothers’ megacompany, which spent $10.4 million on lobbying in 2013 and a whopping $7,703,335 in campaign contributions in the 2014 election.
  • The ten parent companies with the most industrial dumping in 2012 spent nearly $30 million on lobbying in the following year and contributed more than $9.4 million to candidates for federal office in the 2014 election cycle. Between them, these polluters reported dumping more than 95 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways across the country.
  • In Pennsylvania, the state’s biggest polluter – US Steel’s plant in Clairton – made its biggest campaign contribution to Rep. Bill Shuster. Rep. Shuster, the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, held a field hearing in April of this year to allow industry to bash the clean water rule in Altoona, PA. No Obama administration officials or members of the public were allowed to testify.
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation – the single most vocal opponent of the clean water rule – spent more than $2 million on lobbying in the first three quarters of 2014 alone. The report also exposes the American Farm Bureau for what it really is, detailing its role as a bottom-down advocate for the biggest factory farms, not family farmers.

The case of the vanishing bees

Pesticides & The Perfect Crime:

On a fine June morning last year at a Target store outside Portland, Oregon, customers arrive to a startling sight: the parking lot was covered with a seething mat of bumblebees, some staggering around, most already dead, more raining down from above. The die-off lasted several days.

It didn’t take long to figure out that the day before a pest-control company had sprayed a powerful insecticide on surrounding Linden trees to protect them from aphids; but nobody warned the bees to stay away. In the end, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees perished.

The tragedy at Target wiped out as many as 300 bumblebee colonies of bees no longer available to pollinate nearby trees and flowers.

The deadly pesticide is one of a fairly new family known as the neonicotinoids—“neonics” for short—developed a decade or so ago to replace organophosphates and carbamates, which are also highly toxic but dissipate far more quickly.

Learn how “neonics” are turning the sweet lives of bees sour. View Infographic »

Don’t let our Nation’s Heritage be sold to the Highest Bidder

I am writing today because the American West is facing a modern day land grab threatening public lands and wildlife from bighorn sheep to native cutthroat trout.

Proposals for state take-over of our public lands are currently cropping up across the West. We must act today to protect this vast wildlife habitat and maintain our access to public lands.

Act today to say America’s lands are not for sale.

Transferring control of national lands to the states is unconstitutional, costly, unpopular and most importantly would jeopardize millions of acres of land that belong to all Americans.

Allowing the states to take over control of some of America’s most coveted wild places will threaten access for hiking, hunting, fishing or simply having the opportunity to watch wildlife.

If proposals for states to take control of public lands advance, sportsmen and women could be locked out or forced to pay high access fees, fundamentally affecting enjoyment of America’s great outdoors. Even worse, public lands could be sold off and privatized, making them forever off limits to the public.

Act now to keep public lands in public hands.

Not only are public lands America’s great outdoors, they also provide vital habitat to a host of beloved species including: big horn sheep, elk, mule deer and the Greater sage-grouse.

These open, undeveloped lands and wildlife habitat have been crucial in the conservation and restoration of wildlife for nearly a century.

It is crucial we strive to protect the best and most threatened habitat in order to ensure the continued preservation of fish, wildlife and the places they call home.

By taking action today you can join the unified voices of sportsmen and women, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and the conservation community in opposing state proposals to take over America’s great outdoors.

Speak today in support of the preservation of our national heritage and wildlife habitat.

Thank you for all you do for our public lands and the fish and wildlife that call them home.

Meg Morris

NWF Sportsmen Outreach Coordinator

[email protected]

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Attack on WOTUS continues

By Ferd Hoefner

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

In the latest congressional attack on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a two-part joint hearing on the Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments on February 4, 2015. This hearing comes three months after the closing of the EPAs twice-extended comment period on the WOTUS proposed rule, which garnered over 900,000 comments, and six months after the House attempted to stop the rule-making process all together.

The first part of the hearing lasted nearly four hours, and was clearly focused on demonstrating the perceived failures of the proposed rule by relentlessly asking about puddles, ditches, snow cover, and other waters that have dominated the WOTUS media discussion. Touting maps from different government agencies unrelated to the proposed rule, the hearing was more about photo opportunities and discrediting the EPA than a fair effort to work towards informed policy-making. Perhaps contrary to the intent, these efforts illustrated the importance of the rule’s attempts to address the ambiguities resulting from Supreme Court decisions regarding the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Chaired by Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the hearing started off with opening statements emphasizing the negative impact WOTUS would have on small businesses while characterizing the rule as another illegal, overreaching regulation giving the EPA endless jurisdiction.

The first witnesses were EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. Administrator McCarthy’s testimony laid out her goals for the hearing, namely responding to stakeholders, clarifying any misconceptions, and demonstrating the consistency of the scientific decision-making process.

EPA has repeatedly stated that the proposed rule retains existing exemptions for agriculture, and would reduce the overall extent of EPA’s jurisdiction. From Gina McCarthy’s testimony:

“The final rule will not change, in any way, existing CWA exemptions from permitting for discharges of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S. associated with agriculture, ranching, and forestry activities, including the exemptions for:

Normal farming, silviculture, and ranching practices, which include plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, and harvesting for production of food, fiber, and forest products;

Upland soil and water conservation practices;

Agricultural stormwater discharges;

Return flows from irrigated agriculture;

Construction and maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches;

Maintenance of drainage ditches; and

Construction or maintenance of farm, forest, and temporary mining roads, where constructed and maintained in accordance with best management practices.

I want to emphasize that farmers, ranchers, and foresters who are conducting the activities covered by the exemptions (activities such as plowing, tilling, planting, harvesting, building and maintaining roads, ponds and ditches, and many other activities in waters on their lands), can continue these practices after the new rule without the need for approval from the Federal government. Additionally, we expect to clarify for the first time in regulation that groundwater, including groundwater in subsurface tile drains, is not subject to the CWA. The proposed rule reduces jurisdiction over ditches, and maintains the existing exclusions for prior converted cropland and waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds and lagoons.”

Despite this clarity presented within the first thirty minutes, the debate continued with Administrator McCarthy attempting to dispel myths for the next three hours. Some of the key issues raised are presented below, including EPA’s responses:

This rule exceeds authority Congress gave to the EPA through the CWA:

“We cannot expand jurisdiction of the CWA, we’re simply trying to provide a clarity of what that is with this rule making”

“This proposed rule speaks to what characteristics water bodies need to have in order to be jurisdictional. We are not expanding the jurisdiction of the CWA. We are not eliminating any exemptions or exclusions from the CWA in this proposal. We are in fact narrowing the jurisdiction of the CWA consistent with sound science and the law.”

Ditches are going to be under federal control:

“In this rule we actually reduce the CWA relative to ditches by making it clear that there are a variety of other ditches that should be excluded from jurisdiction. And, we do our best to explain those from erosional features.”

Isolated puddles, isolated ponds not connected to other waters, artificial irrigated areas, reflecting and summer pools, and water filled depressions from construction are going to be regulated:

“They continue to be exempt.”

The rule will expand jurisdiction for ill-defined ephemeral streams (brief, rain-caused streams) encompassing nearly all waters in any states that are not flat:

“Ephemeral streams are often found to be jurisdictional today and so the intent of this rule was to provide much more certainty on the basis of the science so that we could be clearer about what streams are important to protect and what weren’t.”

States were not consulted:

“I’ve been working very closely with the states for many years and it’s in fact the states as well as stakeholders that told us we need to go back and take a look at the science and make this on much more sure footing in terms on what the science today tells us about what waters are essential for protection.”

“I think one of the reasons to go to rule making which was a judgment this Administration made was to listen to the people that said that this was important enough and the transparency and the certainty of the rule of making process is what we need… We put a proposal out specifically to generate comments… to learn from that.” 

We are disappointed that Congress continues to attempt to derail the public rule-making process. NSAC submitted comments on the proposed rule asking for greater clarity regarding a variety of terms used in the rule, and also suggesting outreach programs to help farmers understand the rule’s jurisdiction, among other suggestions to improve the rule. EPA must consider these comments along with 900,000 in writing the final rule, which is expected in the spring.

Check out EPA’s WOTUS page for more information.

Celebrating the Stamp and the Migratory Bird Treaty –

From Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp

Next year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty, or at least the initiation of the treaty. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the treaty with Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) for the protection of the “many species of birds which in their annual migration traverse certain parts of the United States and Canada.” After the passage of the Lacey Act of 1900, this treaty became the most important federal action taken to save birds in North America. Officially called the “Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds,” it was signed on August 16, 1916.

But there are actually three Migratory Bird Treaty centennials before us. And the initial signing of 1916 is just the first of these centennials.

The convention still had to be ratified by Congress. That occurred with passage in 1918 and the President’s signature on July 3, 1918. This is why the law itself is always called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). It expressly addressed both the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. It prohibited the over-harvest of waterfowl and established the basis for modern hunting seasons and bag limits. And, among other things, it clearly provided that “the taking of nests or eggs of migratory game or insectivorous or nongame birds shall be prohibited, except for scientific or propagating purposes…”

Then, there was a third crucial event, when the Act was challenged constitutionally and upheld on April 19, 1920, by the Supreme Court in the seminal Missouri v. Holland, in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. eloquently expressed the opinion of the majority (see excerpt below and to the right).

Of course, the coverage of the Treaty was later expanded to include Mexico, Japan, and the Soviet Union.

This amounted to the essential precondition for what we know today as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp, with the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 serving as the functional bridge between the MBTA and the creation of the stamp in 1934.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 authorized the acquisition of lands for the express purpose of conserving migratory birds, and it established a Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. The MBCC was virtually toothless, however, without a functioning funding mechanism for bird habitat acquisition, something finally provided in 1934 with the passage of the legislation creating the Federal Duck Stamp.

Today, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing for the 2016 centennial. Some plans can already be seen on their webpage dedicated to the celebration.

Of course, there should be a role for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp in this action. And the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp has just the activity to draw attention to the link between the triple centennials and the stamp of today.

The current art rules for the stamp’s artwork clearly stipulate that the eligible waterfowl species – with five species considered each year – be depicted as alive and as the “dominant feature in the design.” And that’s the way it should be! The three centennials, however, present the possibility of some added creativity, especially insofar as the MBTA covers all migratory birds.

Our suggestion is to include a “secondary” non-waterfowl migratory bird on the Duck Stamp, an effort to correspond with the Service’s recognition of the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty. Presented correctly, this could be a new and creative challenge for the regular and reoccurring artists. There is also the serious potential of attracting new and aspiring artists to the art competition. And it should also be an important way to appeal to a broader audience.  Remember: it’s not just ducks! With the increase in the price of the stamp to $25, it will be crucial to devise new ways to make the stamp more appealing, especially for those who are not required to buy one. In any case, it’s amazing how a slight adjustment in the stamp art could stress the vital message – the stamp proceeds go to essential habitats and benefit multiple species!

In our last Wingtips we included a number of ideas to increase stamp appreciation. Among these concepts were drawing attention to the art by further engaging the art community, collectors, and portions of the general public interested in wildlife and art, and also linking stamp promotion with a recognition of historical and conservation events. (These two general concepts were explained in arguments #3 and #4 in that last issue of Wingtips.)

The two suggestions can actually be combined through the inclusion of the secondary bird species to the artwork.

This could start with the contest to be held in the fall of 2016, the first centennial year. There is plenty of time to prepare – announcements, rules, artist preparation, and essential promotion.

Of course, the eligible waterfowl would be the prime and dominant feature in the artwork, but with this approach another non-waterfowl migratory bird in the image would be required. Any non-waterfowl species covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty and the related Act could be portrayed. It is assumed that that species should be appropriate, showing the right habitat (e.g., wetland, riparian, bottomland, or grassland), seasonal presence, and corresponding plumage.

For the 2016 art contest, we already know the eligible waterfowl species: Brant, Northern Shoveler, Canada Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, and Steller’s Eider.

Just consider some of the artistic possibilities showing a secondary species (e.g., shorebird, songbird, long-legged wader, or raptor) along with the dominant waterfowl:

Brant – Wintering Brant along the shore with non-breeding-plumaged Ruddy Turnstone (shorebird) in the background.

Northern Shoveler – An incubating female Northern Shoveler on a nest with a Yellow-headed Blackbird (songbird) on nearby reeds/cattails.

Canada Goose – A pair of these geese in a large pond with Great Egret (long-legged wader) on the far shoreline.

Red-breasted Merganser – Pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in a boreal pond, with Merlin (raptor) in the far-off bare trees.

Steller’s Eider – A pair of these eiders in tundra habitat, along with a male Pectoral Sandpiper (shorebird) displaying off to the side.

Moreover, almost any of the dominant species could be joined by a favorite raptor (e.g., Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, or Peregrine Falcon) or a familiar long-legged wader (e.g., Great Blue Heron or Green Heron) in the background. And how about another hunted migratory non-waterfowl (Sandhill Crane or Wilson’s Snipe)? Now, wouldn’t that be grand!

Any new art requirement would have to be clearly stipulated in the rules.

Special art requirements or restrictions have been established before. You may remember the Black Scoter in the 2001 contest (for the 2002-2003 stamp). That year’s contest was actually restricted to artwork showing Black Scoter, a waterfowl that had yet to be chosen for a stamp.

But why isn’t this proposed non-waterfowl bird in the art simply an option for the artist in the coming year or years? Actually, it already is! (The rules allow for stamp designs that include “habitat scenes” and “conservation.. uses of the stamp.”) However, the artists want to know, exactly, what the judges will be told, what their precise instructions for judging will be. An “option” does not do that!

If the artists know that all of them have to consider and display a secondary species covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty, only then is the art competition run on a level playing field.

Ideally, these rules would extend to the 2019-2020 stamp, that is, through three contests – 2016, 2017, and 2018. (Remember, the MBTA was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1920.) If stakeholders are displeased, the rule change could be dropped after the 2018 contest. If the concept is embraced during those years, it could even be continued.

The good news is that this suggested change for inclusion of a secondary species does not require any change whatsoever in the Federal Law, just minor changes in the Contest Rules. And this has been done before.

Readers of Wingtips can review our detailed proposal, with very simple rule changes we have placed on our website. We have already presented these ideas to the USFWS for their consideration. And we welcome your comments which we could post or circulate as the discussion grows.

Did You Know

1) Only once has an image of a dog appeared as part of the Federal Duck Stamp. But there are many occasions when dogs have appeared on state stamps, perhaps dozens of them, and from 22 states.

2) The last time that stamp sales topped two million was the 1980-1981 stamp, when 2,045,114 stamps were sold across the country.

3) Before the 1958 revisions of the law (effective 1 July 1960), land acquisition was only one of several programs financed at least in part with stamp dollars. Previously, about 20 percent of these funds were used to acquire refuge lands and approximately 50 percent had been used to develop and maintain migratory bird refuges after acquisition.

4)  The highest number of stamps sold in California was in the 1952-1952 year when there were 214,456 stamps sold in the Golden State.

5) The first national Jr. Duck Stamp contest began with 8 states participating in 1993: Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, South Dakota, and Vermont.

6) Bob Hines (1912-1994) created the original rules for a Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest and managed the competition for over three decades.


Stamp funds not only go to refuges. Since 1958, the funds also go to acquire smaller wetland and grassland habitats (the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program – SWAP) within the Prairie Pothole Region of the upper Midwest and northern Great Plains. In this way, over 3.6 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat have been added to Refuge System.  These units are commonly referred to as Waterfowl Production Areas or WPAs.

From the Supreme Court – 1920

On April 19, 1920 the Supreme Court ruled, in an opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., that the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 were, indeed, constitutional. As constitutional doctrine, the importance of this case has rested on its broad reading of the treaty power as against the claim of a state. But this case of Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920), is also significant in conservation law, as can be seen in the following passage from the opinion by Holmes:

To put the claim of the State upon title is to lean against a slender reed. Wild birds are not in the possession of anyone; and possession is the beginning of ownership. The whole foundation of the states’ rights is the presence within their jurisdiction of birds that yesterday had not arrived, tomorrow may be in another state and in a week a thousand miles away.

Elsewhere in the decision, Justice Holmes added:

We see nothing in the Constitution that compels the Government to sit by while a food supply is cut off and the protectors of our forests and our crops are destroyed. It is not sufficient to rely upon the States. The reliance is vain, and were it otherwise, the question is whether the United States is forbidden to act. We are of the opinion that the treaty and the statute must be upheld.

Stop The Seizure of Public Lands; Sign this Petition

Multiple wildlife organizations have signed onto a petition to prevent the sell off of public federal lands that belong to every American. The organizations include: the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and many more.

You can learn more about the petition and sign it by visiting