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As Hunter Numbers Decline, How Will We Fund Wildlife Conservation?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | February 1st, 2012 | 86 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: Aldo Leopold, American bison, bird watching, birds, conservation, conservation funding, Crex Meadows, deer, Eco Travel, elk, extinction, fees, fishing license, George Bird Grinnell, Gifford Pinchot, gray wolves, hunting license, money, nature, ruffed grouse, species extinction, sturgeon, Theodore Roosevelt, turkeys, wildlife management, wildlife viewing, Wisconsin, wolves, Yellowstone National Park

Whether you’re an avid sportsman or purely a wildlife-watcher, it’s a fact that the animals, birds and fish you endeavor to see are “paid for” mostly by hunters. Those who engage in hunting, fishing and trapping are the major contributors to conservation funds in almost every state. Surprisingly, the monies animal-viewers and birdwatchers donate to conservation efforts rarely add up to even a third or a half of what hunters put into department of natural resources funds — even though watchers greatly outnumber them.

In my own state of Wisconsin, deer-hunting licenses and permits generated $22.7 million in revenue for the department of natural resources in 2010. And in most years, an excise tax on hunting equipment provides an additional $10 million to the state for wildlife management — in one case, supplying $400,000 to study and prepare for the likely arrival of a deadly bat disease. The problem is, however, that the number of hunters — along with anglers and trappers — is declining. And it promises to keep decreasing as the population ages.

So as the economy tightens, causing state and federal budgets for wildlife conservation to continue to be cut, and if younger people are not taking up hunting and fishing, where will future environmental monies come from?