“The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
~ President Theodore Roosevelt
Anti-gun activists like to prattle on about the dangers of firearms. They talk of the need to regulate and even ban them to protect the American people. Meanwhile, environmentalists and climate doomsday alarmists warn that the world will end in 12 years and that we are destroying the planet. Desperate measures need to be taken, they say. And then you have the tree huggers and animal rights advocates who would like nothing better than to see an end to hunting. Hunters and fisherpeople, though (note the politically correct term), are actually protecting wildlife and helping with conservation efforts; without them, there would be more endangered species, less natural habitat for indigenous animals and less care for lakes and streams.
Gun restrictions and bans cut into the hunting scene. People buy and use ammunition for target practice, not just for hunting. Making it more difficult to purchase guns and ammo can discourage hunters and cut back on their activities. Some states have regulations that could prevent gun owners from transporting their hunting rifles across county or state lines, which again restricts where and when they can hunt. If you are not a hunter, then you might wonder just how they could be so important. For the most part, It all comes down to the money, of course. To hunt or fish, a license needs to be purchased, and the proceeds from those sales go towards funding a host of programs. Here is a breakdown of the monies collected during the 2015-2017 Washington state budget biennium and how it was spent:
- $37.5 million to manage fisheries.
- $20.5 million to manage hunting seasons.
- $20.2 million for business management obligations.
- $16.3 million to produce hatchery fish.
- $10.1 million to manage and acquire wildlife areas and water access sites.
- $8.4 million to preserve and restore water-based species and their habitat.
- $3.8 million to preserve and restore land-based species and their habitat.
- $3 million for nonconsumptive recreational opportunities.
That’s more than $100 million spent to protect wildlife and nature – in just one state. The Fish and Wildlife Agency explains this on a grander scale:
“The collective annual budget of state wildlife agencies is an extraordinary $5.63 billion dollars. That amount is the annual equivalent of paying the entire New York Yankees’ roster for more than 25 years, and greater than the total economic impact of eight NFL Superbowls. An estimated 58.8 percent ($3.3 billion) comes from hunting- and fishing-related activities, either directly through the sale of licenses, tags, and stamps, or indirectly through federal excise taxes on hunting, recreational shooting, and angling equipment.”
The End of an Era?
Anti-gun laws are not the only things causing a decline in hunting and fishing. Baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 — account for about a third of hunters nationwide. This generation now ranges in age from 54 to 72, meaning they are getting a bit long in the tooth to be traipsing about the wilderness carrying provisions and enduring harsh weather conditions.
Demographics also have an impact. According to Outdoor Life, most hunters throughout history have been white men:
“[T]oday, more than 90 percent of hunters are Caucasian, and more than 70 percent are male. But soon – by 2044, according to U.S. Census projections—Caucasians will make up less than half the U.S. population. Plus, the rural population is staying relatively stable, while urban populations are increasing.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent report showed that there were 11.5 million hunters in 2016, which is a decline of 2.2 million from 2011. The shrinking number of hunters is partially due to millennials not being interested in the activity, while many are more inclined to see it as cruel to animals. In 1991, hunters were in the 25-34 age group. In 2016, there were only 16% in that age range.
What will happen to this billion-dollar industry as more gun restrictions and bans are enforced and as the younger generations increasingly prefer to do their hunting via Xbox? Where will the money come from to maintain our lakes and streams, protect endangered animals, and keep hatcheries filled and plentiful?
Read more from Kelli Ballard.