Imagine 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 acts as the heart of the conservation movement. They pump time, energy and money into one of the nation's 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'm 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 a $15 license that lets hunters bag migratory birds. But anybody who has followed the program through the decades knows 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. Currently, stamp sales raise about $25 million each year.

Over the last 78 years, the federal duck stamp program has raised more than $850 million. The money was enough to allow federal agencies to purchase or lease six 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.

The chances are good that unless you're 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 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, 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.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york