A recent newspaper article finally pushed me over the edge … I wrote an op-ed for the paper that sums up my feelings – and maybe yours. The ignorance of so many so-called “environmentalists” and animal-rights supports is mind-boggling. If they understood the mechanics of wildlife management, well, read on …
Dylan Darling’s article of Dec. 29 on the decline of hunting and fishing license sales misses three key points: 1) When participation in these sports shrinks, all of Oregon’s wildlife loses. 2) Dwindling participation is only part of the problem. 3) There is a massive disparity between who benefits and who funds wildlife management in our state, and the nation for that matter.
Currently, hunters and anglers foot virtually the entire bill for fish and wildlife management at the state and federal level. During the Great Depression we convinced Congress to tax us with a “duck stamp,” to fund acquisition and management of federal wildlife refuges. We asked for – and pay – an excise tax on firearms, ammo, hunting vests, fishing rods and waders. When you see a new boat dock, songbird guzzler or wildlife viewing kiosk, you can thank sportsmen and women who probably funded it through these and similar mechanisms.
Almost annually, sportsmen and women consent to higher state and federal license, fee, and tag prices. This year alone, the cost of a duck stamp rose over 66 percent, an increase we were glad to endure. For almost a century, hunters and anglers have picked up the tab, and that’s before figuring in their massive contributions to conservation groups.
But other users of our forests, rivers, deserts and wildlife refuges pay a pittance, if anything, toward the management of public lands and wildlife. They are virtual freeloaders, riding the financial coat-tails of license buyers who fund management of songbirds, predators, endangered species, and everything else that swims, flies or runs through the trees.
In my book, it’s time those who kick into skinny skis, carry a camera, or pick up a paddle paid their fair share.
Why? The sad fact is, watchable wildlife, cute-and-cuddly critters, “charismatic megafauna” … and the environments they depend … may well vanish without hunting and fishing license money. There are simply too many “takers” (non-consumptive users) and not enough “makers” (license buyers). If paddlers, skiers, and birders don’t step up to the plate, their future outings may not include a breathtaking elk bugle or startling ruffed grouse flush.
Without hunting and fishing license sales, there would be little if any research on wolverines, wolf management, or protection of endangered suckers. All wildlife populations would decline further as habitat degrades and biologists take their place in the employment line. Sierra Club, PETA, and the Humane Society of the U.S. talk a good game, but they seldom put their money where their mouth is and certainly not at the level hunters and anglers do. Their shrillest fundraising campaign could never make up the deficit of plummeting hunting and angling license funds. Picket signs and protests won’t create buy critical habitat nor pay researchers’ salaries; sportsmen’s dollars do that.
If you ask mountain bikers, birders, kayakers, and backpackers, they’ll admit to enjoying their outdoor experience as passionately as anyone who waves a rod or carries a rifle. They’ll proudly share photos of gray jays perched on their hand, and mule deer fawns curled under a pine. But like the 30-something slacker still living in their parents’ basement, they simply don’t care who pays … as long as it’s not them.
It’s time to put up or shut up. Whether you’re vegan, pacifist, Buddhist, or Democrat, if you love our fish and wildlife and the places they live, you should be willing to finance their management. Save the philosophical discussion for later, when you’ve paid the price of admission.
Buy a hunting or fishing license or consider yourself a hypocrite. You might also try one of these wonderful sports and learn why so many are willing to invest so much.
Feel free to turn this into your own letter to the editor … or save it for that inevitable confrontation with someone who just doesn’t get it.