On Saturday, September 20, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, the new artwork was chosen to grace the 2015-2016 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. There were 186 pieces of waterfowl artwork that were judged by a panel of five judges. Here is how the artwork was distributed by eligible species:
- Brant (4.3%)
- Canada Goose (28.5%)
- Northern Shoveler (32.3%)
- Red-breasted Merganser (15.1%)
- Ruddy Duck (19.9%)
For the first time in the history of the contest, there was a three-way tie in the voting, and extra rounds had to be run to pick the final top three in order.
The winning artwork was of a pair of stunning Ruddy Ducks painted in acrylic by Jennifer Miller of Olean, New York. Coming in second was a lovely flying Red-breasted Merganser by Ron Louque of Charlottesville, Virginia, and third was a bold Canada Goose by Frank Mittelstadt of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
Jennifer Miller, the artist for the Ruddy Ducks has been known for her fantasy artwork. She is currently creating wildlife artworks, jewelry, masks, and sculpture as well. Describing her outdoor as well as artistic interests, Miller says, "I grew up with a very vivid imagination, and couldn't stop drawing birds and dragons. I am mostly self-taught, with no formal art education, and studied under the guidance of the natural world… I draw a lot of inspiration from the land around me! I have what others have referred to as an 'explosive' passion for nature and wildlife, and indeed I go out of my way daily to study, observe, and learn about my interests. I am equally happy examining a wild bird through binoculars as I am examining bits of moss growing across a fallen tree."
You can find out more about Miller and her work on her website.
The gender of the artists making submissions to this contest was just over 81.2 percent male, and 18.8 percent female. Only two other women have come in first in the contest previously: Nancy Howe in 1990 (King Eider) and Sherrie Russell Meline in 2005 (Ross's Goose).
The almost all the revenue for the stamps – adding up to about $24 million per year – will go directly to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF). This funding secures vital breeding, stopover, and wintering habitats for waterfowl, other bird species, and other wildlife across the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Today, parts of 252 National Wildlife Refuges (accounting for 2.37 million acres) and over 200 Waterfowl Production Areas (with over 3.0 million acres secured) owe their existence to the stamp investments made through the MBCF.
For more on the contest and the program see the website for the Federal Duck Stamp Office.