Monday, August 27, 2012

Government Conservation Program Costs: who is picking up the tab?

Conservation is more than a philosophy or a moral viewpoint on the preservation of our natural resources.  It is a movement with a strong economic and political infrastructure.  And because of that, it needs support; support to fund government conservation programs, support to fund research and the execution and enforcement of policies and regulations.  What are you willing to contribute?

Indeed, the individual can have a profound effect by their own personal actions regarding preserving nature - from picking up trash to trying to remain as carbon neutral as possible to selecting what types of foods to eat - and the tides of public opinion can influence the directions our government officials will follow.

As reported by Richard Moore for, a large segment of that financial support of government efforts comes from a rather unlikely source - a source that seems both logical and ironic given the condition of many species and ecosystems today.  It is the hunters and fishermen.

According to preliminary results from a survey taken every five years by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the latest results show that hunters and fishermen are paying the majority of the costs for conservation programs in these 50 states.

" is the hunter and fisherman that continue to pay the brunt of conservation efforts as nearly 75 percent of the annual income for all 50 state conservation agencies is funded through the purchase of licenses and excise taxes on firearms, archery and angling equipment," Moore reported. 
What was also interesting with the survey results, was the growth of these two groups and the growth of more non-destructive conservation activities like wildlife watching or wildlife photography.  While all three groups have grown, it is the recreational conservation activities that has really blossomed.
Moore noted, "While the number of hunters 16 years and older rose to 13.7 million and fishermen increased to 33.1 million the biggest rise continues to be in wildlife watchers.  In 2011 nearly 71.8 million people fed, photographed or observed wildlife as a pastime spending a staggering $55 billion on these pursuits."  The total expenditures spent by all three groups is a whopping $145 billion.

Taken as a sign that conservation-minded recreational activities represents a greater and growing awareness of the importance of nature and conservation, is it unreasonable to ask that those who would seem to be most committed to conservation should be willing to pony up some of the cost?  Nature needs our emotional and intellectual support and it needs our dollars to help support the government policies and programs that many non-profit conservation groups pressure governments to install.

Fair enough that the hunters and fishermen contribute as some token for whatever negative impacts they may be imposing by their activities.  And sure, it would be grand if every living soul on the planet were to chip in, as with every breath they are all a part of nature.  But for those of us who appreciate nature as a recreational activity - ecotourism, wildlife safaris, photo expeditions, or just plain bird or whale watching - perhaps we should voice our willingness to pay some sort of a fee to support the very safeguards we demand of our elected officials to have in place. 

Just a thought. . .

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