Artists won’t have to include hunting imagery in order to be eligible for a spot on the federal duck stamp. This is a change from a Trump-era requirement.

The U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will remove the “celebrating waterfowl hunt heritage” theme from its Federal Duck Stamp contest. This change takes effect after this year’s competition. According to the Biden administration, artists who want to be featured on the stamp will have “more freedom of expression” and not need to include a gun or dog.

The duck stamp was first established in 1930s. It has raised more than $1.1 Billion for conservation efforts. This includes the preservation of approximately 6 million acres of wetlands.

To hunt waterfowl, hunters must be at least 16 years of age. These stamps are also sought-after by conservationists and collectors who simply love the striking artwork.

The Trump administration passed the 2020 hunting imagery requirement, claiming it was helping to recognize the importance of hunters in conservation efforts. The National Audubon Society, however, opposed the move saying that it was unnecessary to stir up political controversy.

Erik Schneider, National Audubon Society policy manager, stated that “it is the birds themselves who unite both birders & hunters” and should be celebrated with the duck stamp.

Biden’s administration stated that some artists were not happy about the hunting requirement, and that the rule change would help stamps appeal to wider audiences.

Ducks Unlimited, an organization dedicated to wetlands and waterfowl conservation that works with hunters, supported Trump’s requirement. They said it honored the stamp’s hunting heritage.

However, Nick Wiley, chief operating officers of Ducks Unlimited, stated that they are OK with the decision by the Biden administration and that the program’s conservation advantages outweigh any debate about hunting’s place within the contest.

It is not removing hunting. He said that it was continuing to allow artists the freedom to include hunting and give a nod towards the hunting heritage.

According to the service, a hunting component was included in the 2018 contest before it was made permanent in 2020. The service stated that some supporters of the requirement believed it to be a part of the long-standing program. Although duck stamps are purchased by many groups, the service stated that hunters are its biggest buyers.

Each summer, duck stamps are on sale before the hunting season. This year’s competition still includes the hunting theme requirement. The judges will decide next month.

The contest winners don’t get paid but retain the rights to their work. Collectors can also sell it. The winning entry also attracts attention. The contest has been won 13 times by a trio of brothers, earning them recognition in the wildlife art community. They were even mentioned in the 1996 film “Fargo”.

Robert Hautman, a brother from Minnesota, was featured on the 2018-2019 stamp. This is his third win in the contest. He stated that the competition was a “great environmental success tale”, but that the requirement for hunting imagery wasn’t necessary.

Hand-drawn submissions should be at least 7 inches by 10 inches. The winning pieces will eventually be reduced to size for reproduction on a stamp. Hautman stated that artists must feature at least one waterfowl. Therefore, additional elements should be drawn on a smaller scale so as not to “disrupt” the entire painting. It’s an additional obstacle.

Hautman stated, “It’s something that I don’t believe needs to be there for a duck stamp.”