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Robert Beall won the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest with the portrait above. Beall, the Washington Post tells us, is a farmer, fish taxidermist and wildlife artist from Maryland — and after 27 years of trying, he’s finally won the only art competition sponsored by the U.S. government. 

The government prints 3.1 million duck stamps a year. You can’t mail a letter with a duck stamp. You need a stamp to hunt ducks, and stamps are collected by birders, hunters and philatelists. The government has been printing duck stamps since 1934 and the program has raised more than $750 million, enough to purchase 6 million acres of wildlife habitat.

Beall painted a wigeon. He first entered the competition in 1982 and in 1983, he came in second — losing to a pair of wigeons. The Fish and Wildlife Service selects five waterfowl a year for the contest. This year the Service picked the wood duck, the gadwall, the cinnamon teal, the blue-winged teal and the wigeon. Beall thought the wood ducks would drive the judge snow-blind and that the teals were “niche ducks.” So he painted a wigeon, and won. “Now I’ll always be referred to as a Federal Duck Stamp winner,” said Bealle. “It may not mean a lot to most people, but to me it means a hell of a lot.” 

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