Ding and the Ducks


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How a conservation-minded cartoonist helped save America’s waterfowl.

In the 1930s, the Dust Bowl was taking a tremendous toll on ducks and their habitat. Poaching, a lack of law enforcement, and draining of wetlands had been causing waterfowl populations to decline for years, and now the drought in the Midwest dried up the remaining breeding habitat. As waterfowl populations fell precipitously, sportsmen began to realize that dramatic action on the federal level would be required to stem the losses.

Ideas had been floating around for some time about how to restore duck habitat and how to pay for it. As early as July 1921, an editorial appeared in Sports Afield, advocating the institution of a Federal Hunting License for waterfowl and migratory birds. It decried the loss of wetland habitat and noted: “Surely no man who hunts migratory game birds would balk at paying 50 cents a year, the money to go into a special fund to ensure his sport…” The money, the editorial went on to suggest, would be specifically used for “the better enforcement of the Federal game laws and the purchasing of suitable marshes for public shooting grounds and refuges. With this much money available each year, the Government would be able to acquire large tracts of land for refuges, and the question of the preservation of our migratory game birds and the sport of hunting them would be settled for all time to come.”

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