SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — For the first time since the debut of the Federal Duck Stamp in 1934, the competition to choose 2012’s edition will be held in West Virginia.
On Oct. 28 and 29, a panel of five judges at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown will decide among 192 entries which species will grace next year’s Duck Stamp.
This year, competing artists were able to choose one of five species to paint — mallard, blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, wood duck or gadwall, said Rachel F. Levin, spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife’s migratory bird section, the division that runs the Duck Stamp program.
A pair of white-fronted geese hold the limelight on the 2011 stamp.
Only ducks and geese on the government’s approved hunting list of native North American ducks and geese can be on the stamp.
The Federal Duck Stamp art contest is the “longest-standing federally sponsored art contest,” according to an NCTC press release.
“It’s one of the oldest and most successful conservation tools,” Levin said.
Its origins stem from the Dust Bowl, which dried up wetlands and duck habitats along with them.
Duck hunters, hoping to protect their sport, got together with J.N. “Ding” Darling, then director of the Bureau of Biological Survey, forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The hunters wanted a tax or other revenue source to protect wetlands, and the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or Federal Duck Stamp, came into existence.
Darling, an Iowa native and political cartoonist, painted the first one in 1934, a pair of mallards landing on a pond.
The Federal Duck Stamp has been a cornerstone conservation program ever since. To date, it has raised more than $700 million to buy or lease more than 5 million aces of wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System, Levin said.
From 1934 to 1949, the government commissioned artists to draw the stamps, Levin said. Since the first open contest in 1949, thousands of artists have submitted entries.
Darling’s first stamp sold for $1. Today, a Federal Duck Stamp sells for $15, with 98 cents of every dollar going to wetlands acquisition, Levin said.
Waterfowl hunters ages 16 and older are required to buy Duck Stamps. They also are popular with collectors, conservationists and wildlife art lovers.
Artists who win the competitions receive no money, but they benefit from increased visibility of their work and the sale of prints of their entries.