The 42ndAnnual Earth Day is Sunday April 22 where people are over the world will participate in events and pledge to live their life a little more “green.” Earth Day’s official website states “…we will stand united for a sustainable future and call upon individuals, organizations, and governments to do their part.” Guess who has been “celebrating” and contributing to these same efforts for 140 years–hunters and shooters just like you. Part of Earth Day 2012’s campaign is to reach a goal of a “billion Acts of Green.” On their website, you can make a pledge of what you will do to contribute. Under the tab Conservation & Biodiversity, you can pledge to “eat more local food.” As of this writing, over 1,000 people have taken this pledge. Hunters have been eating local since the history of man. Though there is not an exact number, around 45 million hunters have “taken the pledge to eat more local food.” All 45 million of those hunters, whether or not they are aware of it, have monetarily supported the sustainability of the Earth. I wonder how many of those 1,000 on Earth Day’s webpage have donated money.
Devastated by the damaging results of an oil spill in California, Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson started Earth Day in 1970. Inspired by the anti-war movement, he rallied against the destruction of the Earth’s environment. Likewise, in the 1870s, a group of notable hunters and sportsmen, including Theodore Roosevelt, rallied together to save the area that is now known as Yellowstone National Park, protecting 3,348 square miles of land. In 1894, Yellowstone became the first national wildlife refuge.
Since the days of the early settlers, Americans have hunted for food, trade, fur, and commercial purposes. Without any types of laws or restrictions on hunting, game numbers started to dwindle at an alarming rate. George Grinnell, an avid hunter and editor of Forest and Stream magazine, along with Theodore Roosevelt established the Boone & Crockett Club in 1887. The Club’s mission is “to promote the conservation and management of wildlife, especially big game, and its habitat, to preserve and encourage hunting and to maintain the highest ethical standards of fair chase and sportsmanship in North America.”
Sportsmen have contributed billions of dollars to conservation. In fact, a poll taken by Ducks Unlimited, shows hunters are three times more likely to give towards conservation efforts. More than half of hunters polled said they belong to an organization dedicated to conservation. Over 10,000 different pro-hunting organizations contribute to the sustainability of wildlife and their habitat. In fact, sportsmen have protected more land than the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and the National Parks combined! Biologist Valerius Geist has said that hunters are “the greatest environmental success story of the twentieth century.” (www.conservationforce.org) These groups also press for legislation requiring bagging limits, unethical hunting, and baning illegal smuggling of meat and plume.
Funds made from hunting and fishing fees and licenses go directly to conservation. In 2001, 1.8 billion dollars went to conservation from these fees and licenses. Even if you are not a hunter, but a shooter, your money goes to the same efforts. In 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act allowed for an 11 percent tax on sporting rifles, shotguns, ammunition, and archery equipment, with a 10 percent tax added to the sale of handguns later.
Also taxed is the sale of fishing equipment. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service distribute the revenue from these taxes directly to conservation efforts.
Along with the taxes, fees, and license, money raised from groups such as the Boone & Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (among many others), have allowed the restoration of waterfowl, turkey, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and moose populations. In 1900, there were only about 500,000 whitetail deer left in the United States, thus shutting down whitetail deer hunting. Through sportsmen’s dedication to conservation, the number of whitetail deer now exceeds 36 million.
The National Wild Turkey Federation has raised over 372 million dollars in order to protect 17 million acres of land and Pheasants Forever has helped secure 5.3 million acres. That is only two of the 10,000 organizations dedicated to conservation. All together, hunters and Sportsmen have contributed over 527 million dollars in dues and donations to these organizations. Would any other group be as passionate or as dedicated? The National Shooting Sports Foundation says, “…those who opposed hunting may not be aware that hunters are the largest contributors to conservation…” Those who hunt and fish contribute 75% of the 50 states yearly funds for conservation.
Through funding from sportsmen, we have been able to restore the following game populations:
- Rocky Mountain Elk from 41,000 to 1,000,000
- Wild turkey from 100,000 to 7,000,000
- Pronghorn antelope from 12,000 to 1,100,000
It is not just wildlife and land that these organizations help support. Other programs include protection of tribal lands, provide hunter education, landowner incentives, coastal impact assistance, fishing, boating, and many more.
The tradition of hunters’, anglers’, and shooters’ dedication to conservation continues with the passage of the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, which protects the usage of lead ammunition for hunting, and continues the protection of hunting, shooting, and fishing on all Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land. Further, this year the firearms industry, through the North American Wetland Conservation Act, has committed to a five-year initiative of donating an additional $750,000 to wetlands conservation.
It is not only hunters that benefit from the protection of wildlife lands and it is not only hunted game that is preserved, but also all the other wildlife that lives in these areas. Hikers, campers, anglers, boaters, nature lovers, birders, and others all benefit from the hard work, dedication, and passion of sportsmen.