Wildlife artists have a chance to make Oregon wildlife-viewing history — and a little cash — under a new program and contest that is under way.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife kicked off its new Habitat Conservation Stamp program with a contest in which artists can submit paintings to be considered for the first conservation stamp, which will be sold to help benefit wildlife.
Similar to the federal duck-stamp program, artists here are being asked to paint one of 286 species of Oregon native fish or wildlife in one of 11 habitats. The animals and habitats are outlined in the Oregon Conservation Strategy, the blueprint for improving and enhancing these species and habitats.
A panel of judges will choose the winner, who will pocket $3,000 and see his or her image on the stamp.
Stamp sales will provide a way for "non-consumptive users" of the outdoors to help pay their way, similar to how hunters and anglers help fund programs through license sales and taxes on ammunition and guns.
The agency already has received one submission, says Meg Kenagy, the Oregon Conservation Strategy's communications coordinator. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29, so artists better get painting, Kenagy says.
"I've probably had 25 people ask me questions about it," Kenagy says. "I feel we'll see quite a bit of response."
The stamps will be sold only to those volunteering to buy them, at a cost of $40 per year. The stamps will come with a free ODFW Wildlife Area parking pass, which is needed at the Denman Wildlife Area in White City and four others across the state.
The stamps will be sold through the ODFW's point-of-sale licensing program, with $38 going to ODFW and $2 as an agent fee.
ODFW officials don't know how many people will buy the stamp, but a staff report estimated 2,000 people will buy stamp between now and the middle of 2013, raising about $80,000.
For years, wildlife agencies across the country have looked for ways that birdwatchers, hikers and other "non-consumptive" wildlife users could help pay for the programs they enjoy.
Federal bills creating possible excise taxes on everything from binoculars and hiking boots to spotting scopes have all been shot down.
The 2011 Oregon Legislature created the Habitat Conservation Stamp to give Oregonians a chance to help direct what amounts to a donation to programs benefiting native species and habitats.
The contest is a way to get new artwork for the stamp annually.
The different species and habitats available for painting can be found online at www.dfw.state.or.us. Click on the "Conservation" pull-down menu to find the Conservation Strategy page.
A panel will judge entries for artistic composition, anatomical accuracy, habitat accuracy, general rendering, background and general appeal.
Judging is expected to take place in early March, and the various entries will be displayed, Kenagy says.
Only unsigned, full-color originals with no computer-enhancement will be accepted. Also, the artwork cannot be submitted or used in any other state or species-art competition.
Full rules and an application can be found on the agency's Web page.
The winning art becomes the exclusive property of ODFW for selling items such as prints and posters. The winner will be required to sign 200 prints of his or her work for sales to benefit the program.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at email@example.com.