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Presidential Transition: Wildlife Conservation

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Background: The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NA Model) is based on principles of public “ownership” of wildlife, thus vesting a public trust responsibility in state and federal governments for the conservation and management of wildlife. The NA Model was born out of the unsustainable use of natural resources during the 1800s and is no less relevant today as challenges to conservation of energy, water, soil, forests, and wildlife are exacerbated because of a growing U.S. population and increasing demands for natural resources.

The strength of the NA Model is found in the willingness of resource users – hunters and anglers – to levy fees on themselves to directly pay for the management of fish and wildlife, as well as finance the protection and management of habitat. This revenue largely comes from license sales and excise taxes on the sale of equipment used in the sports of hunting and fishing. In addition to their financial contributions to resource management, sportsmen and sportswomen have traditionally formed the backbone of organizations that provide political support for protection of fish and wildlife habitat and promotion of the NA Model.

Waterfowl hunters are among the strongest advocates for science-based resource conservation. Their support for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, established in 1986, is the basis for protection, restoration and management of nearly 16 million acres of waterfowl habitat. They also sponsored the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, passed in 1989, which has provided more than $790 million in federal dollars for wetlands conservation. This amount has been further leveraged four-fold by contributions from conservation partners, resulting in over $3 billion spent on habitat protection and improvement. In the longer term, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp - commonly referred to as the “Duck Stamp” - has generated more than $700 million since its inception in 1934 and has been responsible for permanently protecting 5.2 million acres of habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Need: The U.S. population is becoming increasingly urban and trending away from nature-based recreation, and the nation’s children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature. Declines in participation in outdoor activities, such as hunting and fishing, erode the foundation of public awareness and support for legislation and programs designed to address the serious problems of energy, soil, water, and wildlife conservation, while at the same time reduce the financial resources that have preserved and restored much of America’s wildlife habitat. Ducks Unlimited (DU), driven by the commitment of waterfowl hunters to conserve wetland resources, is an important source of support for important environmental legislation and conservation programs.

Recommendations: DU recommends that the Obama Administration adopt the following policy suggestions for implementation:

  • Establish a new excise tax on additional categories of outdoor gear, not just firearms and ammunition, modeled after the Federal Aid in Fish and Wildlife Restoration Acts, to fully fund the existing state fish and wildlife management programs for the benefit of all types of fish and wildlife and people.
  • Establish a Presidential Commission on Americans and Outdoor Recreation. Similar to President Kennedy’s Youth Fitness Program, an executive level endorsement of programs to encourage youth and adult involvement in all types of outdoor recreation would greatly increase the profile of this important aspect of American’s quality of life in the future.
  • Support appropriations for the Open Fields provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill designed to encourage voluntary, incentive-based programs that expand public access to private lands.
  • Encourage partnerships among the sportsmen-conservation community, conservation/environmental groups, and state and federal governments to strengthen mainstream interests in outdoor recreation in the U.S.
  • Support an increase in the price of the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (“Duck Stamp”). The price of the Duck Stamp has not increased since 1991, and the “buying power” of the revenues produced have not kept pace with increasing land values and the greater needs to protect key wetland and waterfowl habitats.
  • Support continued appropriations for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.
  • Support “No Child Left Inside” legislation designed to support the education needed to ensure America’s children are aware of and understand the environmental issues that affect natural resources.

See DU Chief Biologist Dale Humburg's column in the DU Magazine on the North American Model

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Related:  public policy

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