Inside the Outdoors: Federal Duck Stamp is a conservation legacy and a Minnesota family


The backstory, of course, is that Jim Hautman is one of a trio of brother-artists who together have won this prestigious annual competition a total of 14 times since 1989. Brother Joe has won the competition five times, his Brother Bob three times. The only other artist in this high post is Iowan Maynard Reece, also a five-time winner, who died in 2020 at the age of 100. For any artist, winning the competition more than once is an accomplishment. But there is no other heritage that comes close to that of the Hautmans.

For the record, the painting that won this year’s competition represents red ducks and chickens, riding waves blown by the wind on a large lake. The sky is awash in dark, rolling clouds, the kind that spell ‘storm’ and, in the minds of waterfowl hunters, reflect the urgency of migration and perhaps the prospect of a productive hunt. In the distance, barely visible in the margin of the painting, we can see a boat with a couple of hunters as passengers. The roux is one of the most beautiful and prized ducks by many avid waterfowl hunters, and a bird, such as the wood duck, duck duck, pintail and mallard, which have a small harvest.

The winning entry of the Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition by Minnesota artist James Hautman features a pair of redheads floating in water and will be featured on the 2022-2023 Federal Duck Stamp. Contribution / © US Fish and Wildlife Service

The hunters as a barely visible feature in the painting reflects a debate over recent contest rules. This isn’t the first time that hunting-specific images have been part of a winning duck stamp design. In the 87 years that there have been duck stamps, there have been non-bird elements such as decoys and dogs, to name a few. For most of the history of the Stamp Competition, the only real requirement for an entry was that it feature one of the specified species of waterfowl. This year’s competition required that the bird (s) featured be a Blue-winged Teal, King Eider, Ross’s Goose (a small version of the Snow Goose), White-fronted Goose, or Redhead.

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But during President Donald Trump’s administration, a requirement was added that the artist include some hunting element of some sort. As noted above, Jim Hautman’s contest winning design features a boat and hunters. Not everyone agreed with the requirement, described as recognizing hunters’ contributions to wildlife conservation. Some felt that this might discourage purchases by non-hunters, some of whom also buy it to support wetland conservation.

Even some of the artists who hope to win the prestigious competition, and who eagerly hunt each other, were not sold on the demand. This year’s winner, Jim Hautman, was cited by Minnesota Outdoor News writer Tim Spielman as preferring hunting elements to be optional, not mandatory. Hautman clarified, noting that the requirement disadvantaged artists who do not hunt and may have hampered efforts to market the stamp to a wider audience than hunters alone.

The counter-argument for including a hunting element would be that it is mainly hunters who buy the stamp to support wetland conservation, and who support non-governmental organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and state and local boots on the ground. clubs — which help and defend migratory birds. Then there is the legislation on the creation of stamps itself. It was signed in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt as the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. It was clear from the start that it would be primarily hunters who would “pay the freight” for future government-coordinated conservation efforts. The stamp itself is known today as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, a more inclusive title than the name of the bill that created it.

There is no cash prize, per se, for winning the Federal Duck Stamp Competition. No taxpayer funded scholarship for the winner. But there is a definite advantage in the artist’s rights to publish and sell limited edition prints of the artwork, for which there has always been a ready market. The animal art market as a whole is only a shadow of what it was at its peak more than four decades ago. But winning this contest – there have been 137 entries this year – is still lucrative for the winner.

The duck stamp program is widely regarded as “one of the most popular and successful conservation programs ever launched,” in the words of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). About 1.5 million stamps are sold each year, and a recent estimate places the proceeds at some $ 1 billion raised over the life of the program, which the USFWS says has helped preserve some 6 million dollars. acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States.

The USFWS notes that the benefits go to many creatures other than ducks, geese, and other waterfowl and migratory birds. Preserving migratory bird habitat benefits songbirds, small mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, including some threatened or endangered species. In addition to direct benefits to wildlife of all kinds, wetland protection purifies water supplies and reduces flooding and soil erosion caused by storm runoff.

Here is a beautiful suite of advantages of a program mainly designed, bought and paid for by athletes for more than 80 years.

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