The November issue of my favorite piece of mail, National Geographic, has a piece on hunters and the part they play in wildlife management.
The article features a picture of the first Duck Stamp (1934-1935), an ink drawing of Mallards by J.N. "Ding" Darling. (Dang! I wish this inaugural stamp was part of my Dad's collection of Duck Stamps)
In February, we blogged about a similar article in the The Washington Post that discussed the decline of hunters in Virginia. The decline in hunting in Virginia is mostly due to the loss of open space for wildlife, which also means less open space to safely fire a gun without hitting a Walmart or a subdivision.
The decline in hunting was also due to cultural shifts in how we spend our free time.
In the last few decades the sport of hunting has also been heavily criticized by animal rights advocates.
According to National Geo, "The great irony is that many species might not survive at all were it not for hunters trying to kill them."
There are over 12 million hunters in the United States and the revenue generated by these 12 million hunters is essential to wildlife management and the purchase or conservation of habitat.
Since 1934, the Duck Stamp (which serves as a hunting license) revenue has added 5.2 million acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System. Hunters also pay excise taxes on guns and ammunition. Some of this excise tax revenue is used to buy new public game land, thereby preserving habitat.
Hunters also contribute $280 million yearly to nonprofits such as Ducks Unlimited who focus on restoring and conserving habitat. Habitat that benefits the game, but also other indigenous plants and wildlife.
Ethical hunters understand our connection to the land. They understand our connection to their prey. They understand the impact of habitat destruction and are often the first to speak of declines in certain species.
And, they are paying for the privilege of hunting.
As the number of hunters decline each year, the revenue generated by their sport is also declining.
On the other hand, the number of wildlife watchers continues to grow, with bird watching being one of the most popular.
As birders, perhaps it is time we pay for the privilege of enjoying our sport.
You can do that by purchasing a hunting license (the Duck Stamp) and supporting non-profits who are dedicated to conservation.