Local students compete in Duck Stamp
CRESCENT MONTESSORI student Anders Hart, 11, drew a blue-winged teal as his entry for the Junior Duck Stamp competition.
The Duck Stamp began as a simple concept that grew into one of the most successful conservation efforts in American history.
In 1934, through an act of Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began requiring hunters to purchase a $1 stamp carrying the image of a duck in order to obtain a hunting permit. The next year, he invited artists to compete in designing the stamp, which quickly became a popular collectors item.
Today, the Duck Stamp program has generated more than $750 million, used to purchase or lease more than 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat across the country. The Federal Duck Stamp, designed by adults, currently sells for $15 while the Junior Duck Stamp by children is $5 - with 98 cents out of every dollar going toward conservation.
Today, the Duck Stamp competition is still a popular event for art and nature enthusiasts, especially school children, who compete in the Junior category. For the first time ever, the Junior Duck Stamp California judging will take place in Sonoma on Friday, March 25. From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., judges from all over the state, each with a background in wildlife, will review more than 3,000 entries in four age group categories. One noted judge is Elizabeth Jackson, national Junior Duck Stamp program coordinator with the Department of Interior, which oversees the contest with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It's a huge deal that she's actually coming here for this," said Tom Rusert of Sonoma Birding, which was instrumental in bringing the judging to Sonoma.
The "Best of California" winners in each age group will be announced during a reception on Friday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m. While the winning entries will be immediately sent to Washington D.C. where a national winner will be selected April 15. Valley residents can see scanned versions of all the finalists during the associated festival at CornerStone Gardens from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 26.
"People can come see the best of show California winners for 2011-12," Rusert said. "We'll also have the current national winners for 2010-11 displayed."
In addition to viewing the Duck Stamp artwork, festival-goers can learn more about a variety of wildlife. A wide range of nonprofit organizations will be on hand with information and displays about the creatures that coexist with us, including live raptors. There is no cost to attend.
Several Valley students are hopeful their artwork will be passed through to the national level. Students at Prestwood Elementary School and Crescent Montessori School submitted their duck artwork, drawing blue-winged teals, cinnamon teals, gadwalls, mallards or wood ducks - the species selected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this year's contest.
"We were just drawing ducks, all sorts of ducks, learning about how their bodies work and look," said Eli Fucile, 9, a student at Crescent Montessori.
Rusert noted the Duck Stamp is approved curriculum in arts and science in California. He hopes to see more classrooms around the Valley participate in coming years, joining more than 25,000 students around the country who enter each year.
"It offers every K through 12 student a chance to connect with nature through science and art," he said.
The students who participated said they enjoyed the opportunity to look at ducks in a new way, more focused on their color, shape and size. Many are already eyeing next year's contest. "I still draw ducks sometimes," said Anders Hart, 11, of Crescent Montessori. "I am practicing so next year I'll have a really good one."
The national Duck Stamp winners will be decided April 15, where winners will earn cash prizes of up to $5,000. The stamps will be released July 1 and will be available at the post office. The stamps remain sought after by collectors, a $1 stamp purchased in 1934 may bring as much as $750 for a stamp in mint condition today.