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Federal Duck Stamp Contest to take place at Drake University this weekend

The Duck Stamp originated in 1934, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act into law.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Drake University will host the 2023 Federal Duck Stamp Contest this weekend. 

The winner of this unique competition will have a piece of their art turned into a stamp benefitting conservation efforts. 

The Duck Stamp originated in 1934, when then President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Act, now known as the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, into law. 

Under the law, waterfowl hunters must buy and carry a Federal Duck Stamp every year. 98 percent of the cost of those Duck Stamps goes toward "[conserving] wildlife habitat vital for many birds, fish, mammals and plants", according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 

Kira Sabin, who uses she/they pronouns, has been participating in the contest for five years. 

"My grandpa, Grandpa Dave, told me about it in 2019," Sabin said. "He used to hunt and I've always loved art. Since then, I've been pretty obsessed." 

The two-day competition has quite a following online. Sabin's TikTok account, where they post about their artwork and the Duck Stamp Contest, has nearly 300,000 followers.

"I knew that I loved the Duck Stamp, but I didn't know that many other people would as well," Sabin said. "It's been overwhelmingly positive and I couldn't be more grateful." 

Even if she doesn't win, Sabin hopes to at least improve from last year. 

"I would love to make it to the final and third round of judging this year. That'd be amazing," Sabin said. 

While Sabin is part of a new generation of artists participating in the contest, artists have been participating in the contest for decades. 

J.N. "Ding" Darling designed the first Duck Stamp. Darling is a well-known name in Iowa, having worked for the Des Moines Register as a political cartoonist for almost 50 years. Darling was also a pioneer for conservation efforts in Iowa and across the country, serving in multiple state and federal conservation position. Darling eventually served as the first president of the National Wildlife Federation. 

Notably, Drake has paid homage to Darling in the past: In 2021, the university introduced the Jay N. Darling Institute, dedicated to growing partnerships between the school and rural communities. 

This year's Duck Stamp Contest begins at 10 a.m. Friday. Watch the Day 1 livestream below or at this linkView the photo gallery here.

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