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Our cover story in Boardwatch Magazine from 1992!


Boardwatch Magazine (November 1992)

Cover story by Editor Jack Rickard (Pages 61-62)

Conservation and ecology are not entirely new things, nor are they entirely populated by wild-eyed leftists with a pocket full of pop science and a lot of concern over ozone holes they know nearly nothing about. Hunters and Fishermen, often portrayed as the evil ones in today's ecology movement, have for many years funded and fostered management and conservation programs to preserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. It is somewhat natural for them to do so, as they have a natural desire for plentiful game and fish to hunt.

In the late 1930's, a gentleman named J.N. "Ding" Darling conceived the Federal Duck Stamp Program. In the years since, duck stamps have been issued by most of the states that have any ducks whatsoever.

These programs are one of those where everyone that touches it wins - including the ducks. States sell the stamps to hunters. The stamps are typically five or six dollars and hunters must carry a stamp when hunting or risk stiff fines. The proceeds that the state collects from the stamps, are used for conservation and habitat management programs that directly benefit the ducks. This causes more ducks. Duck hunters like more ducks.

But the win/win scenario goes even beyond this. First, most states have contests where artists submit designs for the stamps themselves. This has a couple of effects. First, artists who win these contests enjoy a big boost in their artistic careers. Winning a state wildlife stamp design contest IS actually a big deal to wildlife artists. Secondly, the stamps become very interesting and collectible objects of art themselves. So the hunters are aren't really being so much hounded by the state agencies to cough up management fees, as they are enrolled in an art collection program. And the stamps appreciate rather significantly in value.

The South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, for example, started a duck stamp program in 1981. Their first stamp was a copy of a painting by Lee LeBlanc. In 1981, you could get the stamp for a total cost of $5.50, or you could purchase a full sized limited edition print of the painting (NOTE: Published by Ambassador!) for $125. Today the stamps alone are valued at $125 each, and the print plus a stamp goes for a cool $2200. The 1982 "Hunter Version" duck stamp was also priced at $5.50 originally. Today, they make the trip for around $650. These stamps appreciate at some 1400 to 1500% ANNUALLY and there really aren't any losers. You don't get that type of appreciation in certificates of deposit these days.

For the past 21 years, one of the leading wildlife art galleries in the southeast has been the Ambassador Graphics and Wildlife Gallery of North Charleston, South Carolina. This thriving art gallery specializes almost totally in wildlife and conservation art. Currently, they also trade in stamps, prints, posters and so forth of ducks, geese, fish and other wildlife. They have also become integral to the South Carolina stamp program, and in fact, they assist the state in the publication of these stamps. A couple of times a year, when a new stamp is issued, they will hold a public reception for the artist selected for the stamp, and the artist typically signs free posters for those who attend.

Most notably, Ambassador is probably the first art gallery in the world to operate a BBS and post GIF images of art online. The system is titled Earth Art BBS, and we found it thoroughly fascinating from several angles.

The system is run by Bob Chapman of Ambassador Galleries - known online as the "Top Duck." It's currently a 3 line system using PCBoard software, and is actually located IN the gallery at Ashley Phosphate Road. Gallery visitors can watch it in operation. It is accessible at (803) 552-4389 and sports a new U.S. Robotics 16.8K Dual Standard modem on the first line.

From our point of view, this system contains THE most serious collection of GIF image art NOT devoted to pornography that we've located anywhere. The system features hundreds of GIF images in various categories almost entirely devoted to wildlife/outdoor themes. The place is a little duck crazy with GIF images of State and Federal duck stamps from the last twenty years and most all of the states - all ducks we viewed were fully feathered and not depicted in any sexually compromising poses. There are also files such as SAVEAGLE.GIF - a stunning portrait of an American bald eagle. There are other shots of the Grand Canyon and other nature scenes. Most of these are pretty seriously detailed images about 180-250KB in size.

The system is also tied in with the rest of the ecology movement. The board carries a number of appropriate conferences from the RelayNet International Message Exchange (RIME). It also features a 9600 bps satellite downlink with TCI's X*CHANGE cable service for various news items and conferences. The sysop, Bob Chapman, has put together a list of ecologically thematic bulletin board systems from around the country - each verified as not just carrying eco conferences, but actually being primarily devoted to ecology/conservation. This GREENBBS list is available for download. In fact, he's launched his own fledgling network entitled GreenNet and is fast picking up participating systems.

The gallery features a Pioneer V2000 laser disc unit with some 18,000 art images (UPDATE: Now over 30,000 images) on a 12-inch disc unit that gallery visitors can use to search for images. Chapman is working on a method to link this to the BBS so callers can actually download images from this huge collection.

Although the system has just been up a year, it has already attracted a pretty large following. Chapman is posting messages of interest about stamp issues, art contest winners, etc. almost constantly and it has drawn a crowd. The current rage is an entirely NEW stamp series for saltwater fishermen. It's titled the South Carolina Marine Recreational Fisheries Stamp. Artist Randy McGovern won the design with his original oil painting "Spot-tail Bass". The stamp is commonly referred to as the first South Carolina Saltwater Fishing Stamp. It went on sale July 1, 1992 and is virtually assured to be a collectible. South Carolina is the first, and apparently the ONLY state to require a stamp for saltwater fishing. (CORRECTION: Texas was first in 1986, but SC is the first state to require it for fishing in the Atlantic Ocean!) All fishermen fishing out of private or rented boats off of the South Carolina shore are required to have this stamp in their possession on the boat and are subject to a $248 fine if they don't. The stamp is available at 1200 locations across the state at a price of $5.50. The expected $1 MILLION annual proceeds will go to enhancing habitat for saltwater fish, including building artificial reefs and so forth to further the cause of fish. At the end of the year, the state shreds any unsold stamps. (CORRECTION: The stamps are shredded after the stamp's expiration date, in this case June 30th 1993.)

Callers can view the stamp by downloading SC92SALT.GIF from the Earth Art BBS. We were a little surprised to actually find artist Randy McGovern online on the system, responding to questions about the design - and mostly receiving compliments for this very lifelike depiction of a bass.

Similarly, the state is issuing a new series of duck stamps informally referred to as the "Lighthouse Series." South Carolina has eight lighthouses and the series will feature ducks with lighthouses in the background. The first of the series was awarded to artist Russell Cobane for his original painting of "Buffleheads at Harbour Town Lighthouse". This is available in the file SC92DUCK.GIF on the system.

Calling in from Colorado, we had to check, and sure enough, we found CO90DUCK.GIF in a file area - a Colorado duck stamp. (NOTE: The First of State Conference contains all 50 First of State Duck Stamp Designs!)

(UPDATE: Color images of both original artwork and stamp designs of all 50 First of State Duck Stamp Prints are now shown with appraisals at

Apparently, thousands of people collect these stamps, prints and other wildlife art that don't necessarily hunt or fish. Given the award process and benefits to artists, these stamp programs attract first rate art and collecting at $5.50 per stamp, or typically $125 for limited edition prints, (NOTE: SC now charges $135 for the S/N Edition.) can be reasonably inexpensive and enjoyable hobby - and given the appreciation levels, potentially profitable as well. Further, most of the purchase price goes in a very real way to contribute to conservation efforts for our natural wildlife. A winning proposition for everyone who touches it, and a most interesting bulletin board system. The only negative was strict operation of one of those horrendous callback verification systems. But the system is free of charge. Bob Chapman, Ambassador Graphics & Wildlife Gallery, 3640 Ashley Phosphate Road, North Charleston, SC 29418; (803) 552-0078 voice; (803) 767-3825 fax; (803) 552-4389 BBS.

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