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New Game Bird Stamps Support Conservation, Hunting
AUSTIN, Texas — New game bird stamps that Texas hunters will be required to buy this fall showcase the latest development in a history of wildlife conservation success stories built by hunters. For decades, hunter purchases of licenses and dedicated stamps have provided the lion’s share of funding for important conservation work.
State wildlife officials point to the recovery and resurgence of species like the eastern wild turkey and the white-winged dove as shining achievements thanks to Texas hunter support. In order to hunt turkeys or whitewings in Texas, hunters have been required to purchase special stamps for those game bird species as part of the licensing process. These stamps were created by the state legislature, which dictated the funds generated can only be used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for habitat acquisition and leasing to conserve resources and expand hunting opportunity, habitat development and management, and research and surveys to benefit specific game birds.
Created in 1971, the white-winged dove stamp was critical for the acquisition and protection of whitewing habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where most whitewings were at the time. In decades since, the whitewing population has grown and spread across Texas and beyond.
The state turkey stamp was created in 1992 as a funding mechanism for the restoration of eastern wild turkey to their historic range in East Texas. More than 7,000 wild-trapped birds have been purchased from other states and relocated to suitable habitat in East Texas, thanks to the turkey stamp and cooperation from other state wildlife agencies and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
TPWD has worked with Ducks Unlimited, Inc., landowners, and other agencies since the passage of the Texas Duck Stamp in 1981 to purchase critical wetland habitat and to restore many thousands of acres of wetlands through leveraging the state duck stamp dollars with other partners to benefit wetland restoration on both public and private lands.
“Today, mourning doves need more attention throughout their range, but we have been hamstrung by a system that prevents us from spending whitewing funds on other migratory dove species,” said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. “Likewise, there are other upland game bird species besides turkey that need help, such as quail, whose populations have been declining for several decades.”
Rather than seeking yet more dedicated hunting stamps to help address these concerns, which would force hunters to dig even deeper into their pockets, Texas leaders came up with a solution. With input and support from TPWD and the agency’s Game Bird Advisory Committee of outside stakeholders and the Texas Quail Council, plus conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited, Texas Audubon Society, Sportsmen Conservationists of Texas, Texas Wildlife Association, and the Dove Sportsman’s Society, lawmakers reorganized the state game bird stamps in this year’s legislative session to help address the changing situation for game bird conservation.
Senate Bill 1192 consolidates the state’s game bird stamps, creating two new stamps from the current three. The white-winged dove stamp (currently $7) and waterfowl stamp (currently $7) are now combined into a single Migratory Game Bird Stamp ($7), which will be required to hunt any migratory game bird, including ducks, geese, white-winged doves, mourning doves, white-tipped doves, sandhill cranes, woodcock, snipe, rails, and gallinules.
The turkey stamp (currently $5) has been replaced by the Upland Game Bird Stamp ($7), which will be required to hunt any non-migratory game bird, including turkey, quail, pheasant, chachalaca and lesser prairie chicken.
These new stamps will be required beginning this September. Anyone who purchases the Super Combo license package automatically gets these needed stamps.
The two main groups of game bird hunters impacted by stamp changes are those who hunt mourning dove and quail, two species biologists say are in greatest need of help to address issues that have arisen in recent years. License sales data show that about 60 percent of all dove hunters already purchase the white-winged dove stamp, so in practical terms the new Migratory Game Bird Stamp would affect only about 40 percent of dove hunters. TPWD also estimates that only about 40 percent of quail hunters would feel a new impact from the new Upland Game Bird Stamp, since most quail hunters already buy combination type licenses that include all needed stamps. The department estimates that the two new stamps will generate up to $1.5 million per year in new revenue for conservation work.
“The new stamp requirements will make funds available to help us assure that solutions to their problems are science-based so we can continue to provide plenty of hunting opportunity for these birds in the years to come,” said Mike Berger, TPWD wildlife division director.
The department works through joint ventures with various conservation partners to leverage stamp dollars, making funds go further to build bigger and better habitat projects in various landscapes to support multiple species with similar requirements. Any habitat project, regardless of which stamp funds it, benefits more than one species.
“The bottom line is we can accomplish more by working on game bird management at the landscape habitat level, and reorganizing these stamps will help us be more proactive in addressing changing needs,” said Cook. “It was truly encouraging to see the state leadership of our game bird conservation partners come together to support these changes. They were willing to work together for the common good of game bird management in the 21st Century, and legislative leaders recognized that these groups were willing to pull together. That common ground approach is what got the legislation enacted, and that’s the approach that will work for landscape-level game bird management. We are proud of our conservation partners and appreciate their support for these changes.”
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