(NEXSTAR) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is dropping a requirement for artists to include “hunting specific elements” to their Duck Stamp designs.
The rule, instituted under the Trump administration in 2020, had mandated the inclusion of hunting scenes or elements for the purposes of “Celebrating our Waterfowl Hunting Heritage” — a theme that was also intended to be permanent and mandatory for all Federal Duck Stamp designs from 2020 onward.
Federal Duck Stamps, first issued in 1934, are a required purchase for waterfowl hunters over the age of 16. The program has raised more than $1.1 billion since its inception, 98% of which goes to fund wetland conservation efforts, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservationists and collectors, whether hunters or not, can also contribute to their efforts by purchasing the stamps.
The Trump-era rule, however, had ruffled feathers with artists. Some even resented the requirement, claiming it compromised their vision, according to Audubon magazine. The outlet added that many artists — nearly a fifth of those who submitted entries in 2020 — chose to incorporate discarded shotgun shells, possibly because they were less prominent than actual guns or hunting dogs.
“That looks to me like litter, and a lot of people said the same thing,” Rebekah Knight, one of the entrants, told Audubon at the time. “It’s just not good for trying to get the correct message across for people who don’t know anything about hunting.”
The Trump-era rule had also mandated that judges of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest “have a background and understanding of waterfowl hunting and the elements that are consistent with the theme” — meaning that entries were also judged on how well these elements were incorporated into a piece of artwork meant to celebrate waterfowl.
This week, however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed these rules, citing “dissatisfaction” with the requirement from stakeholders and artists.
“These revisions provide artists more flexibility when designing their art and broaden the appeal of the Duck Stamp to a more diverse audience,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife wrote of the decision in a press release.
Hunting-inclusive designs — such as hunting dogs, rifles or decoys — are still allowed under the latest rule, though no longer mandatory as of the 2022 contest.