The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now accepting entries for the 2013 Minnesota Junior Duck Stamp Contest, which is administered by Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Entries must be postmarked by March 15.

The Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program is a dynamic educational program designed to spark youth interest in habitat conservation through science, art, math, and technology. Students in kindergarten through high school are encouraged to interpret the natural world through artistic expression. By providing a basis for participation in the Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest, the activities encourage students to move beyond simply "learning about" wildlife and wildlife art to testing their abilities as wildlife artists.

Students may submit artwork featuring one of the following types of waterfowl: whistling ducks, swans, geese, brant, dabbling ducks, diving ducks, sea ducks, mergansers, stiff tails, or Hawaiian ducks. A full list of permitted species is available at http://www.fws.gov/juniorduck.

Judging will be open to the general public, and will begin at 9 a.m. March 19 at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Bloomington Education and Visitor Center. Artwork entries will be judged on the basis of original design, anatomical accuracy, artistic composition and suitability for reproduction on a 1" by 1.5" stamp.

During the contest, youth will be judged in four groups according to grade level: K to 3, 4 to 6, 7 to 9, and 10 to 12. Three first, three second, and three third place entries, along with 16 honorable mentions, will be selected from each group. Contest judges select a "Best of Show" from the 12 first place winners, which will be submitted to the Federal Duck Stamp Office and entered into the National Junior Duck Stamp Contest.

The first place art from the national contest is used to create a National Junior Duck Stamp each year. The Junior Duck Stamp is available for $5 from the U.S. Postal Service and from many National Wildlife Refuges. All proceeds from the sale of the stamps support conservation education and provide awards and scholarships for participating students, teachers and schools.

A downloadable entry form and information on contest rules and regulations for educators and supervising adults can be found online.

For additional information or questions regarding participation in the Junior Duck Stamp contest, please contact Junior Duck Stamp state coordinator, Mara Koenig at 952-858-0710, or mara_koenig@fws.gov. Entries and reference forms must be postmarked by March 15 and mailed to Junior Duck Stamp Coordinator, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 3815 American Blvd East, Bloomington, MN 55425

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.

For information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws/gov.