Hunters Value Wildlife

+Joe Hosmer is the president of Safari Club International Foundation, a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting wildlife conservation through sustainable use.

Hunting is vital to the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife populations. Both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species recognize the importance of hunting in conservation and have special provisions in their regulations to ensure hunting continues. Animal rights and welfare activist groups fail to recognize the value of hunting in conservation and even claim hunting is a leading threat to wildlife. In fact, hunting remains a timeless tradition, a livelihood, and a necessity for conservation.

Hunters pioneered sustainable wildlife management through the creation of North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. After early settlers diminished wildlife populations through unregulated harvesting, hunters and anglers assumed responsibility for the management of wildlife and worked to conserve species through harvest limits and the establishment of conservation organizations. Since its implementation in the 1860s, the North American Model has been responsible for the revival of multiple species, including white-tailed deer, elk, and black bears among others. Deer populations have grown to 32 million since the mid-1900s thanks to the North American Model, where science and sustainability are central. Research is conducted yearly to ensure that harvest is sustainable and adapted to meet the management goals set for the population size. Further, state conservation programs provide groundbreaking research into the most pressing issues facing wildlife management and rely heavily on revenue generated by hunters to remain at the forefront of those issues.

Through legislation such as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, better-known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, excise taxes and fees paid by hunters are directed to restoration programs to be used exclusively by state fish and wildlife agencies. The revenue from an 11 percent tax on long guns, for example, is distributed nationwide and assists with conservation research and project funding. Last year, the US Department of the Interior announced that $1.1 billion of excise tax revenue paid by sportsmen and sportswomen would go toward funding state conservation and recreation projects. Programs like Pittman-Robertson and personal donations to conservation organizations allow sportsmen and sportswomen to contribute billions to conservation annually. In 2011, North American hunters spent $38.3 billion with $3 billion directed exclusively to conservation initiatives. These efforts are the foundation of the conservation funding system.

The practice of funding conservation programs through hunting revenue is not only applicable to North America, but has been shown to be effective internationally. As in the US, hunting revenue from the sale of licenses and tags in Africa and Asia also goes directly to funding wildlife management and other conservation efforts. Many African countries rely on tourism for economic stability; one of the highest grossing forms of tourism in Africa is hunting. Hunting tourism means jobs to local peoples of Africa. According to a 2004 study, in Tanzania hunting tourism employed approximately 3,700 people annually. In turn, those workers supported 88,240 family members.

Many wildlife organizations recognize the benefits hunting tourism brings to African communities. A recent World Wildlife Fund community-based natural resources management report states that the economic benefits of hunting “quickly reinforce the value of a conservancy’s wildlife resource and such community awareness is a powerful anti-poaching stimulus, creating effective internal social pressures against the illegal harvesting of game.”

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Creating value for wildlife is a key aspect in ensuring wildlife survival and that is exactly what the presence of hunting accomplishes. Habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict are growing threats to wildlife populations. This is due to land-use change for various human purposes, such as agriculture. As long as wildlife attack livestock and eat or trample crops, local people will continue to indiscriminately kill intruders that they perceive as a threat to their livelihood. Scientifically based, regulated hunting provides value to wildlife for these local communities by showing the profits that can be generated by the legal harvest of a single animal. It is also conducive in creating socially acceptable population numbers, which ultimately decreases the possibility of wildlife conflict and therefore decreases the number of retaliatory killings, further conserving species.

Many opponents of the hunting industry ask: “If hunters love wildlife, why not donate the money instead of using it for hunting?” But no one asks a marathon runner to only write a check instead of actually running in a breast cancer awareness race. It is commonly understood that providing an opportunity for a person to contribute to a cause, while participating in something they love, increases the likelihood that a person will continue to contribute in the future.

Hunters respect wildlife and seek to conserve the wildlife that they hunt to ensure sustainable populations for the future. It is a lucrative form of tourism that not only creates value for wildlife, but also supports conservation programs, feeds local communities, provides jobs, and funds anti-poaching efforts. And, hunters also write checks for conservation, in addition to hunting.

Hunting is indisputably an effective form of conservation recognized by governments and wildlife organizations throughout the world. It generates revenue and provides tremendous opportunities for communities reliant on wildlife. Science dictates harvest numbers and research showcases its positive effects. Year after year, sportsmen and sportswomen demonstrate their impactful role in conservation and their efforts should not be stifled by the futile emotional arguments of those who harbor a moral grudge against the hunting industry.

For an opposing view, read what Teresa M. Telecky has to say.

photo of lions resting in a meadowphoto David Berkowitz

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