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Know the West

How to draw a duck


Start with basic shapes: an oval for the body, a circle for the head, triangles for the bill and tail, a pole for the neck and a checkmark for the wing. Be sure to fill up most of your paper. Now, let's round out the lines and add color. Then, draw in the duck's habitat.

This is the basic lesson HCN subscriber Betsy Whitehill taught hundreds of Alaska school kids as a part of the Alaska Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest. The contest was designed to teach kids about wetlands and conservation, and get them to look closely at the natural world. The state winners won a trip to Washington, D.C., with a teacher and a parent, and a chance to enter the national duck stamp contest. Winning pictures decorate the duck stamps sold to hunters around the country to raise money for environmental education.

"Betsy brought a lot of energy to the program," says Fred Deines, deputy manager of Alaska's Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and Betsy's supervisor. "She had a way with children. She turned this program into something very special."

Betsy graduated from Ohio State University, then went to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which brought her to Pasco, Wash. "She came out West with an idealistic view," says her husband, Barry, manager of Alaska's Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. Years working with the Army Corps, the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service showed her how complicated land management could be, he says, but it never broke her resolve.

"She was a pretty active and strong-willed person," says Barry, who remembers Betsy going off to work in the backcountry soon after giving birth to their first son. "She'd be gone for four nights, and leave me with a newborn and frozen breast milk."

Betsy died of brain cancer at home in Fairbanks on Jan. 11. She was 43.

Since Betsy's death, HCN has received a flood of donations in her name to the High Country News Research Fund. We are very grateful for the generous contributions. We offer our sympathy to Betsy's husband, Barry, sons Callison and Kai, and daughter Krista Gangis.