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The New Jersey Waterfowl Stamp Program

 

Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest (US FWS)
The Program
The New Jersey Waterfowl Stamp Program has been a success story for waterfowl and their habitat. Since its inception in 1984, the stamp program has raised more than $3.5 million dollars leading to the purchase of over 17,000 acres across the state from Sussex to Cape May (Figure 1).

All of the properties acquired by the program are open to the public and most are open to hunting. Since many of the state's most valuable wetlands occur in the southern counties, most of the acquisitions are in that region. (Figure 2).

The stamp program has also funded habitat improvement projects and research activities related to habitat carrying capacity research studies in New Jersey. Stamp program property acquisitions have also been used as state "match dollars" to help leverage federal North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants to secure additional wildlife habitat acquisitions in New Jersey.

1984 Waterfowl Stamp
The state waterfowl stamp program was launched in 1984 with this pair of canvasbacks painted by Thomas Hirata. Stamps and prints with original artwork were discontinued in 2009 as a cost savings measure.

The Stamp Funds
All waterfowl hunters 16 years and older are required to purchase a New Jersey waterfowl stamp, available at license agents and online, in addition to the federal Duck Stamp, to hunt in the state. The Waterfowl Stamp Act of 1984 (pdf, 270kb) requires that the monies from the New Jersey stamps be earmarked for the "...acquisition,...improvement, and enhancement of waterfowl habitat and wetlands…and access for public use of waterfowl habitat areas." Stamp Account revenues cannot be used by the general state treasury or for administrative costs within the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Mixed flock of wintering ducks
Waterfowl use properties purchased with stamp funds through various stages of their life cycle.
Click to enlarge
Photo courtesy of Craig Lemon
From 1984 to 2008 both stamps and prints were produced by renowned artists for sale. Unfortunately, the artwork for the state waterfowl stamp and the paper stamp itself have been discontinued since 2009 but the dedicated funding for waterfowl habitat lives on through a stamp certification. A sampling of original model decoys and stamp artwork are on display at the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center.

The artwork was discontinued as a cost saving measure since the considerable expense of producing the artwork and stamps resulted in fewer funds being available for the purchase of waterfowl habitat. This situation is not unique to New Jersey as over half of the states which offer state duck stamps have discontinued their artwork for similar reasons.

Like most changes, discontinuing the duck stamp artwork has had both bad and good aspects. Cessation of stamp publication meant the loss of a valuable collectible and cultural icon. However, money that had previously been spent or "lost" on publishing and producing the artwork, instead now goes to habitat conservation. Wildlife are certainly on the winning end of that aspect of the change.

Waterfowl Stamp Advisory Committee
The Waterfowl Stamp Advisory Committee (WSAC) oversees the program. Representatives from Ducks Unlimited, NJ Waterfowlers Association, N.J. Audubon Society, NJ Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Areas Council, Fish and Game Council (2 members), and a Public at Large member volunteer their time to serve on the WSAC. The WSAC meets twice annually to review Stamp Program finances and decide on property acquisitions and funding programs.
Waterfowl Stamp Committee Members

Acquiring Properties
DEP's Green Acres Program forwards potential acquisitions (offers) from willing sellers to the Division of Fish and Wildlife. A Division biologist reviews and rates each of the offers using 13 criteria before presenting the recommendation to purchase to the WSAC.

The following criteria are considered in the ranking process: value to waterfowl and other waterbirds, wetland proportion and type, connectivity to other protected lands, ecological integrity, resiliency to sea level rise, water quality protection, parcel size, risk to development, and 3 human use criteria. Ultimately, the WSAC makes the final decision to contribute to purchase the property or decline the offer.

NJ Waterfowl Stamp funds have made significant land contributions to the following Wildlife Management Areas: Paulinskill, Trout Brook, Great Bay Boulevard, Swan Bay, Pork Island, MacNamara (Tuckahoe), Heislerville, and Mad Horse Creek.

The Waterfowl Stamp Program has also accepted numerous donated properties over the years. Landowners interested in donating their properties to this program can contact Ted Nichols of the Division of Fish and Wildlife at ted.nichols@dep.nj.gov or at 609-628-3218.

Wild rice on property acquired through stamp funds.
Stamp monies purchase valuable wetland habitats such as this tidal freshwater wild rice marsh.
Click to enlarge

State Contributions to Canadian NAWMP and NAWCA Projects
Banding data indicates that large number of waterfowl which migrate through or winter in New Jersey, particularly American black ducks, green-winged teal, Atlantic brant, and Canada geese, breed in Canada. The statutes that govern the NJ Waterfowl Stamp Program recognized the value that Canadian breeding grounds have on the welfare of New Jersey's waterfowl and included a provision that, "…may allocate a percentage of revenue to qualified nonprofit organizations in North America for utilization in waterfowl habitat programs, provided that direct benefits to New Jersey waterfowl can be clearly demonstrated."

Over the years, the WSAC has worked with Ducks Unlimited and Canadian partners to secure and enhance waterfowl breeding and staging habitat in Canada through the State Contributions to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) and North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Through this innovative program, each dollar allocated by the WSAC is matched first by Ducks Unlimited, then those combined dollars are matched by NAWCA funds for a minimum 4:1 dollar impact for on the ground projects. In most cases, additional funds are leveraged from other partners in Canada. In particular, NJ Duck Stamp monies allocated to Canada are spent entirely within Quebec, where most birds that winter in New Jersey originate from. More than 40 states contribute funds to this important program.

Wetlands acquired with Waterfowl Stamp proceeds
The best offers obtained by the Waterfowl Stamp Program, at least in tidal areas, contain a portion of wetlands as well as an upland component to accommodate sea level rise.
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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: October 26, 2020