The Real Conservationist Please Stand Up
Recently we read on Facebook where a self proclaimed “conservationist” was bashing hunters and state wildlife agencies. Insults ranged from hunters and their bloody thirsty selfies to wildlife agencies neglect of non-game species. It’s sad to see that sportsman are not always perceived as conservationist. In fact, sportsman were the first conservationist in modern times. Modern wildlife conservation was born because hunters were concerned over exploited and declining wildlife populations. Did this guy have some traction as it appears to the non-hunting public? Maybe at face value there are those who’s ego seem to take over a hunt, there are bad apples in every group. And maybe it appears that game species do sometimes take precedence over other non-game species because the model is kinda set up that way. Was the characterization of hunters and state wildlife agencies as blood thirsty with a narrow minded perception of the natural world unfair, very much yes. To paint any group of people with a broad brush is wrong.
The Layers of Modern Wildlife Conservation
If you dig deeper and peel back the layers of modern wildlife conservation you begin to see that game species conservation benefits other non-game species and their habitats as well. You also see that sportsmen were the first to lead the charge in wildlife conservation and continue to be the ones who fund wildlife conservation. Consider this layer that debunks the theory non-game species suffer because of game centric wildlife management… Imagine an umbrella. An umbrella is used to protect whatever is underneath it. One of the terms used in modern wildlife conservation is “umbrella species”. Management that benefit one of these umbrella species benefit other species that fall under that same umbrella of habitat. Because mule deer use habitat at landscape scales what benefits deer benefits many other species of wildlife, making them an umbrella species. For example, mule deer in the West rely on lower elevation sagebrush habitat during winter months. Protecting, conserving, and restoring sagebrush steppe habitat benefits several non-game species like the sage sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, burrowing owl, pygmy rabbit, prairie dogs, badgers, horned lizards…and the list could go on.
True Identity of America’s Wildlife Conservation
Now back to who funds wildlife conservation. The numbers are staggering. Because of guns and hunting wildlife is thriving. Hunters, target shooters, and the firearm industry have been the largest contributor to wildlife conservation since the 1930’s. When firearms and ammunition are purchased and excise tax is paid under the Pittman-Robertson Act that goes directly toward wildlife conservation. These funds are split between state wildlife agencies and along with hunting license sales, this makes up the majority of each states wildlife budget. According to the Congressional Sportsmans Foundation, last year $823 million was generated from Pittman-Robertson funds and $821 million was generated from hunting licenses. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The Federal Duck Stamp program last year generated in the neighborhood of $81 million. Non-profit organizations like the Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pheasants Forever and several other sportsman groups contribute hundreds of millions dollars to wildlife conservation each year.
As hunters and sportsman we can stand tall knowing we are conservationist in the truest sense of the word and we put our money where our mouth is!
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