An unprecedented third round of voting was required as a tiebreaker to determine the winner of the 19th annual Louisiana Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Competition sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).
After a second place finish in the 2004 and 2006 competitions and a third place finish in 2005, Tony Bernard, of Lafayette, prevailed over nine other participants and second place finisher Jeff Klinefelter from Indiana in the closest competition in the history of the event. Third place went to Joanne Graham of California.
"It was tense sitting there watching this take place," said Bernard. "I knew it would be close, but I didn't know there would be a tie. It was just an awesome feeling to win."
Bernard's painting of a chocolate Labrador retriever gazing into the horizon as a flock of mallards descends upon a body of water will be featured on the 2007 Louisiana Duck Stamp. He was also recently recognized at the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission's November meeting.
"When I took second last year with the yellow lab and third with the black lab the year before that, I hoped that I would move up the ladder and get first with the chocolate lab," said Bernard. "According to the rules, once you win you have to sit out two years. So if I would have won the prior years, I wouldn't have been able to paint all three labs."
In addition to wildlife art paintings, Bernard has been commissioned to produce original art for local and regional festivals, professional athletic teams, NASCAR and Southeastern Conference sporting events. Bernard features his art and duck stamp competition paintings at www.bernardstudio.com.
LDWF initiated the "Retrievers Save Game" series two years ago when it featured a black Labrador, because all of the waterfowl species were used in the first 16 years of the competition. The contest rules stipulate that the retriever must be prominent in the design, which must also include live waterfowl selected by the artist.
The Louisiana Waterfowl Conservation Stamp program was established in 1988 by the Louisiana Legislature to generate revenue for conservation and enhancement of state wetlands and other worthy programs that benefit Louisiana's ducks and geese. This program has generated over $9 million for wetland conservation in Louisiana since 1989, with over $500,000 from last year's competition alone.
"These dollars have helped acquire several tracts of land in need of duck and geese habitat improvement," Robert Helm, LDWF waterfowl program manager said. "Money is also budgeted each year from this fund to help repair levees and perform other wetland management practices on our state's Wildlife Management Areas. This money is extremely important to this department and to waterfowl and wetland habitats."
The Louisiana Waterfowl Program, a cooperative endeavor that includes LDWF, Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the Federal Natural Resources Conservation Services, has also benefited private lands.
Helm said that prints of the Bernard painting would be available from the artist this summer. The 19th anniversary 2007-08 stamp, featuring Bernard's work, is expected to go on sale June 1, 2007. The artist will retain the original artwork and will have reproduction rights to the image for prints and other commodities after LDWF has used the image to produce the stamps.
Judges for the competition included Dr. Headley Adelmann, artist and retired biology professor from Hammond; Jerry Bower, frame shop and art studio owner in Lafayette; Joe Herring, a retired former LDWF secretary and wildlife biologist from Baton Rouge; Dick Russel, a longtime dog trainer from Baton Rouge; and Jason Thomasee, the current state DU chairman from Alexandria.
For more information, contact Robert Helm at 225-765-2358 or firstname.lastname@example.org.