It’s that time of year again … our annual Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest is almost here.
Having the distinction of being the only federally recognized art competition in the country, the contest has been around since 1949.
Sixty-five artists submitted 88 design entries that first year. The number of entries rose to 2,099 in 1981. This year, we had 192 entries showing one or more of the five eligible species of ducks and geese.
Meet the Brant, one of the eligible species for the 2012 Duck Stamp Contest. (Photo: USFWS)
Anyone can enter the Duck Stamp contest and the winner is picked by a panel of five judges appointed by the Secretary of the Interior.
Winning artists get no monetary compensation for their work from the federal government. They do, however, get a pane of stamps carrying their design, signed by the Secretary of the Interior.
And the winning artist is free to sign publishing contracts for limited edition prints of their work worth potentially millions of dollars.
The Federal Duck Stamp program is one of the earliest and most successful conservation programs in this nation's history. The first Federal Duck Stamp was designed by J.N. "Ding" Darling in 1934 at President Franklin D. Roosevelt's request.
All waterfowl hunters over the age of 16 are required to purchase a Duck Stamp, but many members of the conservation community and people who just love the outdoors buy Duck Stamps every year. Proceeds from the stamp are used to buy or lease wetlands and other habitats for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
To date, the Duck Stamp program has raised more than $750 million and preserved over 6 million acres of crucial habitat throughout the United States and its territories.
You can buy Duck Stamps at many post offices and sporting goods stores, and even at some discount stores. You can also buy them online at www.duckstamp.com.