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House votes to make electronic duck stamp program permanent

WASHINGTON ó The e-Duck Stamp would become a permanent part of federal law under legislation passed by the House Monday.

Since 1934, migratory waterfowl hunters over the age of 16 have been required to buy the federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, or duck stamps.

Beginning in 2008, eight states joined a pilot program allowing them to sell temporary duck stamps through the Internet. The billís sponsor, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., said that program has been a success and it was time to make it federal law.

The bill passed 373-1. If passed by the Senate, it would give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authority to make that program permanent and extend it to all states.

The electronic stamps are valid for 45 days, giving hunters and other purchasers time to get their actual stamps through the mail.

The program also makes it easier for hunters to go online to buy their federal stamps and state hunting licenses at the same time.

The stamps now cost $15 a year, with 98 percent of the revenues going to buy or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Fund has received more than $800 million since 1934, putting 5.3 million acres of wetlands under the refuge system. The program currently generates about $25 million a year.

The stamps also give birders and other non-hunters free access to the nationís 553 wildlife refuges.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsors a contest every year where wildlife artists from around the country vie to have their entry selected as the design for the stamp the next year.

For more information, go to the Fish and Wildlife Service's duck stamp site -- www.fws.gov/duckstamps/stamps.htm

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