One of the country's biggest wildlife art contests will be judged in Ogden this week as the annual Federal Duck Stamp Contest comes to Utah for the first time in its nearly 80-year history.
The work of nearly 200 artists from across the United States will be open for free viewing by the public at Weber State University. Judges will pick one piece during the two-day event to serve as the 2013-14 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.
The public is invited to see the art for free and take part in other waterfowl-related activities in WSU's Shepherd Union Building.
This is only the second time in the history of the contest it has been held in the West.
Organizers picked Ogden to host the 2012 event due in a large part to the Great Salt Lake and its surrounding marshlands. Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and other wildlife use the habitat throughout the year.
A large part of the lake's wetlands are in the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge west of Brigham City, which was established using Duck Stamp proceeds. The Ouray National Wildlife Refuge in the Uintah Basin and Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge near Dugway are other Fish and Wildlife Service-managed areas that have also benefitted from the Duck Stamp program.
"We're very pleased that WSU agreed to host the Duck Stamp Contest this year in partnership with our fellow conservationists. The Great Salt Lake will serve as an ideal avian backdrop for this year's Duck Stamp competition," said Steve Guertin, former Mountain-Prairie Region director and now deputy director for policy for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
WSU zoology professor John Cavitt called the contest a "tremendous opportunity" for the school's students and faculty and the surrounding community.
"Since WSU is situated next to Great Salt Lake, one of the most important waterfowl sites within the western U.S., it is appropriate that this competition be held here," he said. "It will not only raise awareness for our students and community about the value the duck stamp has for conservation but this location will also bring attention to the importance of Great Salt Lake for waterfowl."
The Duck Stamp Contest is the only federally recognized art competition in the nation. There is no monetary award, but the bragging rights of winning it are coveted.
The stamp that the winning entry adorns is required when hunting waterfowl in the United States. More than $750 million has been raised through the program since it was established in 1934. Waterfowl hunters are the only group required to purchase a stamp, but because money raised from the Duck Stamp is used to manage wildlife habitat, bird watchers and other supporters of wildlife conservation also buy the $15 stamp.
Artists could pick one of the following species to highlight in the 2012 contest: brant, northern shoveler, ruddy duck, Canada goose or the common goldeneye.
Judging is based on the biological depiction of the species, artistic composition and suitability for a stamp.
"This is a hugely significant honor. We are thrilled to be a part of Duck Stamp Art contest," said Kathi Stopher, visitor services manager for Bear River Migratory Refuge.
The refuge will be hosting a special dinner Thursday for artists with work in the contest, Fish & Wildlife Service officials and state and local supporters.
Judging for the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Contest is Friday and Saturday at Weber State University in Ogden. Free viewing of the 192 works of art in the contest starts 9 a.m. daily at the Shepherd Union Building.
Other events include a Duck Stamp collecting booth, information on the national Junior Duck Stamp program, a photography seminar, a chance to buy a duck stamp and conservation exhibits.
O Visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/ea/campaigns_DS.cfm for more information.
O Visit http://www.outdoorsweekly.com/DuckStamps/index.html to see this year's entries.