The Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition is an event I always associate with fall and the waterfowling season. During my tenure as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I had the pleasure of visiting the contest sites and enjoying the first-class artwork submitted from across the country. If you ever have a chance to attend one of the contests, which are open to the public and will be held at Maumee Bay State Park on Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline this year, I encourage you to do so. It is exciting to view the art, choose your favorites and then see which species and artist won.

The federal duck stamp is a powerful tool for conservation in the United States. Every year the program raises more than $25 million used to purchase wetlands in the National Wildlife Refuge System. These habitats benefit waterfowl and countless other species of wildlife. It's an incredibly successful program and one we should be very proud of.

View this year's submissions to the Federal Duck Stamp Contest.

The duck stamp program is in its 79th year, and as we move into the future, we have opportunities to make it even more successful. To make the duck stamp easier for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to acquire, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are considering bills to permanently make federal duck stamps available for purchase online. Fortunately, sportsmen and women have some champions in Washington.

Reps. Rob Wittman (VA) and Ron Kind (WI) introduced and passed House Bill 1206 through the House Natural Resources Committee with unanimous consent, making it ready for a full floor vote.

On the Senate side, the Environment and Public Works Committee is considering S.738, introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (MS). Other co-sponsors include Sens. Max Baucus (MT), Thad Cochran (MS) and Mark Pryor (AR).

I hope to see the passage of important legislation such as the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act to ensure continued easy access for outdoorsmen and women. I also strongly encourage my fellow hunters to double up on their duck stamp purchases this year to show their support for the program. Inflation and rising land prices have greatly diminished the stamp's ability to purchase and conserve important waterfowl habitat, and "Doubling Up for the Ducks" shows that hunters are willing to pay more for the stamp and that they see the stamps as an investment in conservation rather than a tax.

I hope you enjoy the duck stamp art contest in Ohio at the end of the month. Many of us have works from these artists in our homes, and Ducks Unlimited is fortunate to share art produced by some of these same talented artists through our DU event system. It's a great way for us to celebrate our outdoor heritage, and to get a first look at the artwork that will appear on next year's stamp.