A stamp that helps preserve New Jersey's wetlands could see a price hike for the first time in about 25 years.

The price of the so-called "duck stamp" has not been raised since 1996.

A bill, A3897, that unanimously passed in the New Jersey Assembly last month would raise the cost of the duck stamp from $5 to $10 for residents and from $10 to $15 for non-residents. The bill's companion in the Senate, S3262, recently passed a Senate committee.

According to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, since its inception in 1984, the New Jersey Waterfowl Stamp Program has raised more than $3.5 million, leading to the purchase of over 17,000 acres from Sussex to Cape May. The stamp program has also helped fund habitat improvement projects and research activities.

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Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, R-Monmouth, is a co-sponsor of the bill. She said the duck stamp has always been a very popular collector's item and treated like a work of art. In addition, all waterfowl hunters 16 years and older are required to purchase a duck stamp in order to hunt in the state.

She adds the main reason for the duck stamp is to support conservation efforts across the state. "It will allow for the Waterfowl Advisory Committee to preserve and rehabilitate more acres of land for ducks to survive in and the wildlife, so it's actually a really good thing," DiMaso said.

Raising the price of the duck stamp has been widely accepted by waterfowl hunters in the state. In fact, DiMaso said it's actually received 100% support, with hunters doing a presentation before the state Assembly to explain how money raised from stamp sales will help restore nesting habitats for many species of birds.

New Jersey's waterfowl stamp program also gives hunters a direct stake in the preservation of the state's wetlands. DiMaso calls it an environmentally-sound-feel-good bill.

The money raised from the increased fees will help preserve nesting habitats to make sure birds have a place to procreate, grow and learn, said DiMaso. She said this bill is so important because it truly supports the conservation across the state.

If the bill passes the state Senate before its June recess, it will then go to Gov. Phil  Murphy's desk for his signature. DiMaso said she has not been given any indication that the governor would not sign the bill. If signed, the fee hike would take effect 90 days later.

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