By Matt Young
For more than a century, sportsmen have stood at the forefront of the conservation movement in North America. Billions of dollars paid by hunters and anglers for license fees and excise taxes on sporting goods have conserved tens of millions of acres of wildlife habitat, and these revenues remain the primary funding source for state conservation agencies across the United States. Sportsmen also have been the driving force behind critical national and state conservation legislation; have founded and generously contribute to nonprofit conservation organizations; and directly own, lease, and manage land themselves for wildlife. Their conservation leadership has not only helped to ensure a bright future for waterfowl and other game, but has also benefited a host of other wildlife—including several threatened and endangered species—that share the same habitats.
A recent nationwide telephone poll conducted by Ducks Unlimited confirmed that, compared with the general public, hunters as a group are significantly more committed to conserving wildlife habitat. The survey found that hunters were more than three times as likely as nonhunters to participate in organized wildlife conservation efforts. Fifty-one percent of hunters said they belonged or contributed to conservation organizations, compared with only 15 percent of nonhunters.
“There is no doubt that waterfowlers and other hunters are the most passionate and sincere supporters of wildlife habitat conservation,” says DU Executive Vice President Don Young. “We certainly see this within our own organization. DU was founded by a group of far-sighted sportsmen 66 years ago, and, today, 90 percent of our members are active hunters who want to give something back to the resource.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), sportsmen provided $1.8 billion in 2001 through license fees and taxes alone to help fund conservation efforts nationwide. That same year, hunters contributed another $200 million to conservation organizations, including DU, and other sportsmen’s groups, and spent a staggering $4 billion to lease, manage, and own land for hunting. The following is an in-depth look at the immense contribution that sportsmen have made to conservation throughout history, and why participation in waterfowling and other forms of hunting is critical to the future of wildlife conservation.