ATHENS, Texas—Clayton Bowen of Eagle Lake won the Art of Conservation Award in Wildlife Forever’s 2007 State-Fish Art Contest, it was announced Saturday at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bowen’s watercolor on canvas paper of a Guadalupe bass diving into the water will be reproduced as a stamp for sale to collectors; proceeds will be used to fund conservation education and aquatic restoration projects across America.

Two other Texas students also placed in the national competition.

Third place in the grades 4-6 category went to Stanislav Nedzelskyi of Keller, Texas, a home-schooled sixth grader. His acrylic drawing of two Guadalupe bass is titled “The Underwater Meeting.”

Nikita Samarin of Victoria placed third in the grades 7-9 category with “Down in the Blue,” a black-and-white pencil drawing of a catfish. Samarin attends Profit Magnet High School in Victoria. His art teacher is Melanie Burns.

Bowen is a 2007 graduate of Rice High School in Altair, where his art instructor was Debbie Christ.

“I read about the contest in the Houston Chronicle,” Bowen said. “I’d never done a wildlife picture before, so I researched the fish and put a lot of information together. I had seen pictures of fish under water, and I wanted to do something different, so my drawing has the fish jumping into the water.”

Bowen will enter the University of Texas at Austin this fall, where he will major in fine arts.

The Texas division of the national contest is headquartered at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. Initial judging took place at TFFC, and winning entries were sent to Wildlife Forever headquarters in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, for judging at the national level.

“Wildlife Forever is pleased to honor the talented young artists, educators and parents who make the State-Fish Art Contest a memorable event,” said Douglas H. Grann, president and CEO of Wildlife Forever. “Together, we are using art to empower a new generation of conservationists. By sharing their fish art with family, friends and the general public, our young people are becoming ambassadors for the good stewardship of fish and wildlife habitat.”

Educators and students in Texas embraced the State-Fish Art Contest so enthusiastically that the number of entries from Texas alone, 580, amounted to one-fourth of the entries for the entire country. “The large number of entries from Texas meant that many pieces of art of very high quality did not advance to the next round of judging,” said Zoe Ann Stinchcomb, education team leader at TFFC and Texas coordinator of the contest. “Currently we are seeking sponsors for awards for Texas students so that more can be recognized at the state level, and ultimately we hope to be able to award scholarships to Texas winners.”

To enter the contest, students create an illustration of an officially recognized state fish and write a composition about its behavior, habitat and efforts to conserve it. The Texas state fish is the Guadalupe bass, but contestants may depict any state fish of their choice. Entries are due at TFFC March 31 of each year; for contest details visit the TFFC Web site.

Wildlife Forever is a non-profit multi-species conservation organization dedicated to conserving America’s wildlife heritage. Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states. It supports habitat restoration and enhancement, land acquisition, research and management of fish and wildlife populations.

Sponsors for the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest include Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, The Art Institutes International Minnesota, Mall of America, Minnesota Twins, North American Fishing Club, Rapala, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Forest Service Eastern Region.