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Photography’s New Pro Tour

A high-dollar photo contest hopes to promote the idea of “photography leases” as a new revenue stream for landowners.

Landowners with at least 500 acres of wildlife habitat in any of 19 counties in the Texas Hill Country are eligible to participate in the inaugural Pro Tour of Nature Photography. The event, scheduled for April 2006, will pair 20 renowned nature photographers with 20 private landowners in the Texas Hill Country to compete for a share of up to $200,000 in cash. The application deadline is April 1, 2005, and landowner participants will be announced May 1.

“This is the first all-professional tournament of nature photography in the world,” says John F. Martin, who founded Images for Conservation Fund to produce the event. “We created ICF and the Pro Tour for Nature Photography to foster nature-photography tourism as a long-term income producer for private landowners, rural economies and nature photographers to help protect the wildlife of North America. Conservation and enhancement of wildlife habitat is the ultimate objective of the Pro Tour.”

Martin, who lives near Edinburg, Texas, is a longtime conservationist and co-founder of the Valley Land Fund, a Rio Grande Valley land trust that has produced a biennial wildlife photo contest since 1994.

The contest is limited to landowners in the following counties: Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Burnet, Comal, Edwards, Gillespie, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, Llano, Mason, Medina, Real, Travis, Uvalde and Williamson.

Landowners and photographers will be randomly matched into teams. Each photographer-landowner team will submit a 75-image portfolio to be judged by Rosamund Kidman Cox, longtime editor of BBC Wildlife magazine; Stephen B. Freligh, publisher and editor-in-chief of Nature’s Best magazine; and world-famous nature photographer Art Wolfe. Winning portfolios will win cash awards and be featured in a glossy coffee-table book and an exhibit that will travel to museums and major sponsors’ locations.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Photo Marketing Association International, there are approximately 26 million Americans who photograph wildlife every year. “Through the Pro Tour of Photography, Images for Conservation Fund intends to help create a booming industry where private landowners lease top-quality wildlife photo settings on their land for a significant new stream of income,” Martin says. “Lack of ways to create income from land ownership is one of the major reasons family lands are being subdivided and sold, which in turn is the primary reason for habitat destruction.”

For more information, visit www.imagesforconservation.org.

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