Required of waterfowl hunters and prized by collectors, the 2010-2011 edition of the Federal Duck Stamp will make its national debut Friday morning at Bass Pro Shops Outdoors World in Hanover.

And no one could be prouder than Robert Bealle, a Waldorf farmer and artist, who won the contest when his painting of an American wigeon was judged superior to 223 other entries last October at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel. Bealle was runner up in 1983 and made the finals four other times. He also won the Maryland Duck Stamp contest three times.

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The federal stamp costs $15. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar goes to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which aquires wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since it was created in 1934, the stamp has raised more than $750 million to buy and protect 5.3 million acres of habitat. In Maryland, the money has been used to acquire more than 31,000 acres.

All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry a current Federal Duck Stamp. A current stamp also is good for free admission to any wildlife refuge open to the public.

But the stamps also are collectors items. Hunters have been known to buy two: one to affix to their license, the other to collect. Collectors have paid hundreds to acquire vintage stamps.

"It's a pretty big day and important for everyone, not just waterfowl hunters," says Chris Jennings, a spokesman for Ducks Unlimited. "The stamps are of great value to the outdoors community. It's birders, boaters, kayakers, fishermen--everyone who enjoys our wildlife refuges benefits."

The doors at Bass Pro Shops Outdoors World at Arundel Mills open at 9 a.m., and the ceremony begins at 10 a.m. Afterward, the sale of the first stamps will begin and the artists will be available for autographs. The event is free and open to the public.

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