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Memphis Federal Duck Stamp Contest

MEMPHIS, Tenn., May 9, 2005 -- For the first time in its 71-year history, the federal Duck Stamp Art Competition will be held in Memphis. Previously staged in Washington, D.C. and run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the event is one of the nation's most prestigious waterfowl art competitions.

Along with its move to Memphis, the competition will be co-hosted for the first time by Ducks Unlimited and the Greater Memphis Arts Council, creating a regionally unique collaboration of art and wildlife. What will result is a week of special events beginning on Sept. 11. It includes the Duck Stamp competition and viewing, which is open to the public at no charge, an exhibit of original art from past competitions, artists seminars, a Family Day and a judges dinner. The week will be capped off with the Ducks Unlimited Outdoor Expo, set for Sept. 17 and 18 at the Memphis International Agricenter near Ducks Unlimited headquarters.

We are very excited to work with Ducks Unlimited and the Greater Memphis Arts Council to bring the Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition to Memphis this year, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acting Director Matt Hogan. The Duck Stamp is one of the world's great conservation successes, raising hundreds of millions of dollars to fund important habitat acquisitions for the National Wildlife Refuge System. We hope that by bringing the competition to the banks of the Mississippi River, more Americans can be introduced to the Duck Stamp and the network of public lands it supports.

This is a great opportunity to tell the Duck Stamp story in an area rich in the traditions and history of duck hunting and a commitment to conservation, said Ducks Unlimited Executive Vice President Don Young. The sale of Duck Stamps and wildlife art plays an integral role in providing money for restoring and protecting waterfowl habitat. It's a relationship that Ducks Unlimited members know well, and we're excited to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Greater Memphis Arts Council and the Memphis College of Art to tell the Duck Stamp story. Anyone can support wetlands restoration and protection of waterfowl habitat by purchasing a Duck Stamp. It's that easy.

We are delighted to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited to host the only U.S. government-sponsored art competition, said Susan Schadt, Greater Memphis Arts Council president and CEO. Given the high level of interest in duck hunting and wildlife conservation in this region, we believe this will be an event that will attract many and bring national recognition to the Memphis area.

For many centuries and for all of human history, art has begun with close observation, added Jeff Nesin, Memphis College of Art president. This continues today even with abstract and conceptual work, but especially with work from nature. This exhibition will give our community and city a wonderful opportunity to see the very best of closely observed work from nature. We are very proud to have it take place at the College of Art.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selects the judges' panel which is kept secret until the day judging begins. Competition judging begins at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14, and continues on Thursday, Sept. 15. The winning artwork will be identified Thursday afternoon. Ducks Unlimited plans to fly the winning artist to Memphis on Friday and feature him or her with the winning entry during the Ducks Unlimited Outdoor Expo on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18. Viewing of the art prior to the judging is free and open to the public at the Memphis College of Art on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 12 and 13.

All waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older must possess a Federal Duck Stamp to hunt, but anyone can enjoy its benefits. A valid Duck Stamp provides free admission to any national wildlife refuge in the country that is open to the public. Refuges offer unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities, ranging from hunting and fishing to bird watching, hiking and photography. Habitat acquired with Duck Stamp dollars benefits more than just waterfowl, supporting hundreds of species of migratory birds and other wildlife, including dozens of threatened and endangered species.

The recent rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker thought to be extinct in the U.S. for more than 60 years occurred on Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. A significant portion of its acreage was purchased with Duck Stamp dollars.

Since the program's inception, sales of Federal Duck Stamps to hunters, stamp collectors and other conservationists have generated more than $700 million that has acquired and protected more than 5.2 million acres of crucial habitat at hundreds of national wildlife refuges in nearly every state in the nation.

Famed wildlife artist and conservationist J.N. Ding Darling, who was then director of what would later become the Fish and Wildlife Service, created the image for the first Federal Duck Stamp in 1934. In doing so, Darling began what would become an annual tradition of featuring the work of some of the nation's finest wildlife artists on the stamp. For the first 15 years of the stamp's existence, the Service commissioned an artist to design the stamp. Soon, artists began submitting their artwork unsolicited for possible inclusion on the stamp.

In 1949, the first Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition was held at the Interior Department in Washington, with a panel of judges selecting an image of two trumpeter swans by Walter Weber to become the 1950-51 stamp from among 88 entries. The competition is now an annual tradition, with hundreds of artists from around the nation competing for the honor of being the next Federal Duck Stamp Artist. Winning the competition is a significant boost for each winning artist, increasing the value of their work and enabling them to sell prints of the Duck Stamp art.

The 2005-2006 Federal Duck Stamp, featuring a pair of hooded mergansers painted by South Dakota artist Mark Anderson, will be released to the public on July 1. Anderson bested 223 other entrants to win the 2004 contest, held last October in Washington.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands -- nature's most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.


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