By Michael Baadke
A proposal from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service would require artists entering the 2018 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest to include in their artwork a visual element specifically acknowledging waterfowl hunting.
The winning artwork in the annual contest is used to illustrate the federal duck stamp issued the following year.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to celebrate hunters’ remarkable achievements and our unique American hunting heritage with a change to the 2019-2020 Federal Duck Stamp,” reads a notice on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website updated Dec. 15, 2017.
“The proposal would require entries in the 2018 contest to include one or more visual elements reflecting the theme ‘celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage.’”
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The Duck Stamp Office notes that entries “must also adhere to existing contest regulations that require a live portrayal of one or more of the five eligible waterfowl species (for 2018: wood duck, American wigeon, northern pintail, green-winged teal and lesser scaup) as the dominant foreground feature that is clearly the focus of attention.”
The announcement refers to an earlier bulletin dated Nov. 29 that describes essentially the same proposed requirement.
“The proposed changes to the regulations concerning the theme of ‘celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage’ would be in effect only for the 2018 contest,” according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Public comments on the proposal had to be received on or before Dec. 28, 2017, 30 days after the earlier bulletin was posted.
Comments are accepted online.
Learn more on the Duck Stamp competition here, in the search box.
Any changes in the 2018 rules will be posted in the beginning of 2018, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
A handful of comments posted on the government website by mid-December showed some sentiments supporting the proposal and others opposing it.
Florida artist John Brennan posted comments opposing the mandatory rule.
“As a federal duck stamp entrant, I’d like to express my aversion to the idea of adding any man-made objects to the artwork,” Brennan wrote. “I think it’s important that we depict a pristine, untouched habitat, since the protection of wetlands is so integral to the program.”
He also wrote, “I believe that this theme change might alienate a certain section of stamp buyers who are not hunters. Though hunters make up the vast majority of stamp buyers, we cannot risk losing sales for this reason.”
Issued duck stamps showing Brennan’s artwork include the 2010 Oklahoma waterfowl hunting stamp depicting the ring-necked duck (Scott 31), and the 2014 Connecticut stamp featuring hooded mergansers (21).
Comments signed with the name Adam Nisbett stated, in part: “While I think it would be a bad idea as a permanent change and I don’t personally feel like it would significantly improve the resulting design, I would be fine with a one-off special edition competition … However I have a few concerns about this introducing additional elements that might dissuade an artist from entering and reduce interest in the competition.”
Another comment signed with the name Adam Grimm reads, “I am fully in favor of a stamp year celebrating and depicting waterfowl hunting and hunters.”
Grimm has twice won the federal duck stamp art contest. His painting of a mottled duck appeared on the $15 stamp issued in 2000 (Scott RW67-RW67A), and his painting of canvasbacks served to illustrate the $15 stamp in 2014 (RW81-RW81A).
An effort by Linn’s to reach Grimm to confirm that the posted comment was his was unsuccessful.
Another comment attributed to Richard Simms wrote: “I am proud and excited to see the proposal to visually recognize our ‘waterfowl hunting heritage’ in the Federal Duck Stamp. The money I spend on my duck stamp every year, and every other license I purchase, is wisely used for wildlife management and conservation efforts.”
This isn’t the first effort to influence secondary elements that would appear in artwork submitted to the annual stamp contest.
In 2016, the Duck Stamp Office proposed a rule effective with the 2016 contest that would require artists to “include an appropriate non-waterfowl migratory bird species in the artwork design.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later posted on its website that “An appropriate, identifiable non-waterfowl migratory bird species will remain an optional element for 2016. Inclusion of a secondary species will not confer an added benefit and is at the artist’s discretion.”
Of the 153 paintings from the 2016 contest displayed on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Flickr page, some 17 introduced an additional bird into the scene, such as a redwinged blackbird or an egret.
The vast majority of the 84 federal duck stamps issued since the first — the 1934 $1 Mallards stamp — have depicted various waterfowl species in natural settings, often ducks or geese in flight or in water.
The theme of hunting is prominent on the 1959 $3 Labrador Retriever and Drake stamp.
The stamp illustration was the third of five for artist Maynard Reece and shows the head and shoulders of a black Labrador retriever carrying a mallard drake in its jaws. Another seven ducks dot the blue sky behind the dog.
In 1975, a canvasback duck decoy was featured in the foreground of James P. Fisher’s painting on the $5 stamp. Three ducks fly above a pond near the upper right area of the stamp.
Waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required to purchase federal duck stamps, but they are also bought by nonhunting stamp collectors, conservationists and wildlife art enthusiasts, among others.
The stamp also serves as a free pass into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes that by law, 98 percent of the purchase price goes directly to help “protect wetlands and associated habitats through fee acquisition, lease and conservation easements.
“The habitat acquired with federal duck stamp dollars becomes part of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” the agency notes.
Although they are not valid for postage, federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, commonly known as duck stamps, are popular collectibles.
The annual federal stamps are listed as “Hunting Permit Stamps” and valued with U.S. revenue stamps in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, and in Vol. 1 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.