"In music you have the Grammys. If you're an actor, it's the Oscars. If you're a wildlife artist, it's winning the Federal Duck Stamp Contest," 2004 winner Mark S. Anderson told the New York Times.
"The what?" you may be asking.
The annual U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Duck Stamp Contest is the only federally mandated, juried art competition. Hunters are required to buy the $15 stamp to obtain a license, and it's the cost of entry to any National Wildlife Refuge. The vast majority of the funds—98 cents of every dollar—go toward conservation.
The stamp's nickname, the Million Dollar Duck, comes not from prize money—there isn't any—but from the deals the winning artists secure from re-licensing their work. "Overnight you become a superstar in the wildlife art world," said Anderson.
Independent filmmaker Brian Davis wants to offer everyone a look inside this peculiar, inspiring world that has generated more than $2 billion (adjusted for inflation) for conservation since 1934. Check out the video below about his project. And if you're feeling generous, Davis is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to finish the film, The Million Dollar Duck. Flap on over today—the fundraising effort ends at midnight tonight, Pacific time.
More from The Million Dollar Duck Kickstarter page:
Currently the stamp and the wetlands it protects face an uncertain future. Traditionally the stamp has been primarily bought by hunters, although stamp collectors and birders also buy the stamp. A decrease in the overall number of hunters in the U.S. raises concerns over what will happen to the stamp and where conservation dollars will come from in the future. Birders are often hesitant to buy the stamp because of its association with hunting, and because of the economic downturn, funds from stamp collectors have also dwindled. Rising land costs along with the recent rejection of a congressional bill, which proposed an increase in the stamp price from $15 to $25 to adjust for inflation, place the program at further risk.
The best way to continue this vital conservation program is to create a new, wider audience for the stamp. My hope is to create an entertaining film that illuminates this great tradition and exposes it to a broader audience.
Pass the popcorn, I say.