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Celebrating the duck stamp

This year the federal duck stamp turns 75 years old, with a legacy of protecting 500,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in Minnesota and more than 5 million acres nationwide. Since 1934, more than 9 million federal duck stamps have been sold in Minnesota, raising nearly $700 million for the cause of preserving and conserving waterfowl habitat in our state.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved spending of $4 million from duck stamp proceeds this year for the expected purchase of more than 18,000 acres of prime prairie wetland and associated grassland habitat at Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Minnesota. The refuge is part of a much larger geographical area known as the prairie pothole region -- once a vast tapestry of small wetlands and grasslands that stretched from Iowa to Alberta and included western Minnesota. Today, less than 10 percent of Minnesota's prairie wetlands and less than 1 percent of native prairie still exist. But even with significant portions of the original wetlands and grasslands gone, the prairie pothole region continues to produce 50 percent of the United States' breeding duck populations.

The Nature Conservancy is restoring wetlands and tallgrass prairie on the 24,000 acres in the refuge and surrounding area, making Glacial Ridge part of the largest prairie and wetland restoration in the nation.

'The Glacial Ridge project is a terrific example of the protection and restoration of a prairie wetland habitat complex," said Ray Norrgard, DNR wetland wildlife program manager.

Duck stamp revenue also goes to the Small Wetlands Program, which reaches a 50-year milestone this year. Created by a 1958 amendment to the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, the program uses proceeds from federal duck stamp sales to permanently protect some of the nations most threatened and productive waterfowl habitat. The Small Wetlands Program has permanently protected over 190,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in Minnesota's portion of the prairie pothole region and has acquired easements on another 77,000 acres of wetlands.

"The small wetland acquisition program is critical to the future of waterfowl in Minnesota," Norrgard said. "It is a great companion to DNR shallow lake and private land acquisition programs."

Michael A. Kallok, editorial assistant

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