ST. LOUIS (AP) — Artists will no longer have to incorporate hunting imagery to win a coveted spot for their work on the federal duck stamp.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it's eliminating the "celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage" theme from its annual Federal Duck Stamp contest, a change that goes into effect after this year's competition.
Since it was established in the 1930s, the duck stamp has generated more than $1.1 billion for conservation efforts, including the preservation of roughly 6 million acres of wetlands, according to the service.
Waterfowl hunters who are at least 16 years old are required to buy the $25 stamp to hunt. The stamps are also sought after by others including conservation supporters and collectors who just appreciate the striking artwork.
Many groups purchase duck stamps, but hunters are its largest buyers.
Duck stamps go on sale each summer before the hunting season. The hunting theme requirement is still part of this year's competition, which will be judged next month.
Contest winners aren't paid, but they keep the rights to their work and can sell it to collectors. Winning also brings attention. A trio of brothers have collectively won the contest 13 times, gaining acclaim within the wildlife art community and even a mention in the 1996 film "Fargo."
One of those brothers, Robert Hautman of Minnesota, had his work featured on the 2018-2019 stamp, his third time winning the contest. He said the competition is a "great environmental success story" but the hunting imagery requirement wasn't necessary.
Hand-drawn submissions must be 7 inches by 10 inches and the winning pieces are eventually shrunk down for reproduction on a stamp. Artists are required to feature at least one of several chosen waterfowl, so additional elements must be drawn to a small scale that does not "disrupt the whole painting," Hautman said. It is an added obstacle.
"It is something that I don't think needs to be in there for a duck stamp," Hautman said.
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