Friends of Animals has succeeded in its effort to overturn a regulatory rule that illegally forced artists who entered the Federal Duck Stamp Contest to promote hunting. . The inclusion of an element “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” was added to the duck stamp art rules in 2020 by the Trump administration.
That year, Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over this rule, causing the agency to re-evaluate it. Two weeks into the Biden administration, attorneys for FWS told FoA that the agency was reconsidering the rule. Rather than defend the illegal rule in court, FWS decided to repeal it.
“We are glad that the new administration had the good sense to repeal this illegal rule,” said Stephen Hernick, senior attorney for Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “The new rule is a win-win for everyone: Artists can paint the images they want, and more non-hunters will purchase stamps, improving the conservation of waterfowl habitat.”
Wildlife artists annually vie for the prestige of seeing their art grace each new Duck Stamp, which waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required by law to purchase and carry with their general hunting license. However, the beauty of the stamp is that anyone can contribute to conservation by buying them, and they can also be used as free passes into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee. Birders, photographers, artists, stamp collectors and others who don’t get off on killing birds are doing just that, thankfully, because the number of hunters in the U.S. continues to plummet.
Ninety-percent of the annual $25 purchase price goes directly to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to acquire and protect wetland habitat vital to the survival of migratory waterfowl and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
All artwork submitted by the September deadline to decide the design of the 2022 federal duck stamp will still follow the regulation that requires the depiction of a hunting element. Beginning with the 2022 contest, the element will no longer be required.
FoA’s lawsuit argued that requiring artists to depict hunting imagery would alienate the important and growing number of non-hunters who purchase stamps, which would lead to a decline in revenue to conserve waterfowl habitat.
It also stated that the rule violated artists’ First Amendment rights by imposing an unreasonable content restriction in requiring artists to include hunting imagery in their artwork.
“Since the implementation of the 2020 final regulations, which made the hunting theme a permanent requirement, many stakeholders and artists have continued to express their dissatisfaction with this element being mandatory for all entries,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.
Since 1934, Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $950 million to help clean water, aid in flood control, reduce soil erosion, enhance recreation opportunities and protect more than 5.7 million acres of habitat.