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Let’s walk through a door we opened last week.

The idea of harvesting a bear that had become iconic in a suburban neighborhood is controversial. But many sportsmen argue it was the best move.

My response is to urge you to spend a moment imagining a world without sportsmen. It’s not a pleasant thought. The picture in my mind is of a world in which I wouldn’t want to live. There are few critters; woodlands are unhealthy; waterways are polluted; and nobody wants to go outside.

Without sportsmen, it's an ugly world. That’s because this group of like-minded folks act as the heart of the conservation movement. They’re the ultimate environmentalist. They pump time, energy and money into one of the most underrated causes to preserve what was here long before we were.

Without sportsmen, Pennsylvania wouldn't have one of the greatest state park and forest programs in the country. Without them, we would have far fewer outdoor recreational activities. I am convinced, without these folks, our world would be a place few of us would be proud of.

Take the long-term success of the national duck stamp program. To the outsider, it doesn’t sound like much — just an expensive $25 license that lets hunters bag migratory birds. But to anybody that’s followed the program through the decades, duck stamps play a critical role in the nation’s conservation efforts.

The stamp program has been around since 1934, when Franklin Roosevelt used his mighty presidential pen to sign the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act into law. That first stamp cost just $1, but it set the stage for a great source of revenue for the conservation movement. Stamp sales now raise over $25 million each year.

Over the last 82 years, the federal duck stamp program has raised nearly a billion dollars. The money was enough to allow federal agencies to purchase or lease 6 million acres of wildlife habitat and dedicate it to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Take a second to ponder that idea. Without this sportsmen-funded program, a land area roughly the size of Vermont would be at risk of permanent development and potentially off limits to the migrating birds that depend on that land. Hunters did that — those same “evil” hunters so many folks love to vilify.

The chances are good that unless you are a hunter, you never bought a duck stamp. But, I guarantee you’ve benefited from it. If you’ve ever enjoyed the sound of a flock of geese flying overhead, or if you’ve ever relished in the sight of two mallards paddling across a pond, you’ve benefited from the stamp program. And, most important, you’ve witnessed the power of conservation-minded sportsmen.

Now imagine if we didn’t have to rely on just this relatively small segment of our population. What if everybody cared about the critters we share our environment with as much as sportsmen? If one small group can do so much good, a much larger group can do much more.

That’s why I urge you to go to your local post office and buy a federal duck stamp. Not only will you get a collectible piece of art (this year’s stamp features a beautiful duo of Trumpeter swans), but you’ll walk away knowing you did your part.

You don’t have to hunt. You don’t even have to call yourself a sportsman.

But, I argue all of us have to do what’s right. We all need to conserve the world we live in. A duck stamp is just one way to do it — even if you don’t agree hunters are the ultimate environmentalists.

— Andy Snyder writes about outdoors for The York Dispatch. Reach Andy Snyder at sports@yorkdispatch.com

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