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    As Hunting Declines, So Do Conservation Efforts
    By Hank Campbell | February 7th 2013 04:17 PM | 23 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    President Obama recently got some ridicule for hastily claiming he loved skeet shooting and therefore was not against sportsmen when he wanted to tell Americans they couldn't be trusted to decide how many bullets to buy for their guns.

    That he was simultaneously offering bombs and fighter jets to terrorists in Egypt while he didn't trust his own citizens with small arms ammunition was not lost on his critics.

    Satire aside, the problem with his logic was that the US Constitution does not actually limit guns to skeet shooting, even if he thinks it does. The Second Amendment's right to bear arms did not have a qualifier 'for hunting clay pigeons and deer' either, any more than the First Amendment can dictate what church you can go to or on which days, or that the Federal government can enforce a 3-day waiting period before I post this blog.

    The National Rifle Association also invokes hunters in its efforts to stop gun control legislation, but they would be better off just invoking rifles. For as much as we hear about 'assault rifles' - a designation basically invented in 1994 in order to define what they could ban - rifles are a tiny fraction of gun deaths each year, they are  used quite safely, and hunters are a fraction so small it isn't worth mentioning,  fewer than 20% of rifles sold each year.  There aren't many of us left these days and it is a constituency too small to be valuable to either side.

    Yet it isn't the culture war between social authoritarians and conservatives that is impacted the most by the decline in hunting, it is conservation efforts.

    There was a time when conservationists irrationally turned their guns on hunters. Vilifying people who obviously care about responsible land management made no sense but most conservationists spend them time in offices trying to recruit paid memberships and raise money, not actually thinking about who their natural allies are. What many conservationists did not recognize is that most of the money spent on real conservation efforts, not their dopey fundraising brochures, comes from hunting licenses.  As hunting licenses have dropped, so has money for vital animal management programs.

    So the decline in hunting results in two problems: First, of course the money for conservation biology at the state level goes down, which means states will either have to raise taxes or be more reliant on the political strings that come with Federal funding; the second problem is that wildlife is going to quickly go out of control.  Instead of hunters paying to keep animal populations manageable, we will have to hire government union employees to do it, an even greater tax burden on people.

    An article in Wildlife Society Bulletin discusses ducks and hunting. The duck population is booming, it should be a golden age for duck hunters - but there are a lot fewer of them out there.  Over 2,000,000 stamps were sold annually in the 1970's but that was down to 1,300,000 by 2008.  Duck stamps are a Federal license but those numbers correspond to state licenses like deer as well. Hunting is dying off.

    Federal conservation money is based on knowing how many people actually use the land. Not the people who want to maintain pristine, untouched fire hazards like the salespeople at Sierra Club want, but actual outdoor enthusiasts.  

    "Up to 98% of money raised by the duck stamps is used to purchase or lease habitat within the National Wildlife Refuge system," Dr. Mark Vrtiska from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said in his statement.   

    So what does the loss of just duck hunters mean in real land conservation terms?

    "If hunter levels had kept consistent with historical trends then 600,000 more duck stamps would have been expected to have been sold between 1995 and 2008 than actually occurred," said Vrtiska. "That equates to an annual loss of $9,000,000, or $126 million across the whole period. For conservation the results are dramatic as this money could have resulted in 42,495 ha of wetlands."

    It isn't all just activism or kids watching "Bambi" responsible for the decline. America is far less agrarian, far less in tune with the land and our food than we were in the past.  We are, basically, a lot wealthier. 'Nature' is now a park built in a city or specially designated wilderness trails with doggie poop bag containers every 200 yards.  That's progress and there is not much reason to complain if people don't have to own a farm or land to eat.

    But people who claim they want to go back to nature and how our ancestors did things are delusional. I grew up on a small farm, it was tough work. Our house was heated by wood (and that was really, really tough, because what looks like a lot of wood in September is always gone by February) and we hunted for meat. There is a reason I got a scholarship to go to college and it was to not have to do that stuff for the rest of my life.  I hated hunting then, though I do it now to get together with my family, but it is great that science has created a nation where a tiny percentage of people can produce enough food for everyone. People who criticize hunting while they buy Raw Organic Vegan Coconut Aminos and think they are in touch with their paleolithic ancestors are just goofy. Get out and kill some food if you want to appreciate it.

    Natural cultural migrations are fine, I don't think we are worse off if few people write letters in longhand or use a slide rule, so we can live without hunting.  But we shouldn't be trying to drive away hunters and treat them like potential criminals or animal-hating savages, when they keep animal populations sustainable and fund a whole lot of land management.

    Basically, if you claim to be a conservationist and want America to continue to increase its land reserves, get out into nature and shoot a duck.  Or a deer. It sure beats hitting them with your car on the highway.

    Bonus statistic: Vrtiska says, "The waterfowl population has passed 40 million six times since 1995, something only seen nine times since records began. These should be the glory days for duck hunting."  My gosh, those numbers make me want to go duck hunting and I never hunt ducks. They are greasy, nasty things to cook and if I am tromping out into the cold and wet, it is going to be for an elk or anything big enough it means I don't have to leave the house for another year.


    But that is a lot of quacking ducks, in my opinion.

    Citation: Mark P. Vrtiska, James H. Gammonley, Luke W. Naylor, Andrew H. Raedeke, 'Economic and conservation ramifications from the decline of waterfowl hunters', Wildlife Society Bulletin, Feb 5, 2013, DOI: 10.1002/wsb.245


    Comments

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    The decline of hunting with greatly effect conservation. One of the major species hunted, the white tail deer, has barely any natural predators in many areas of the country. Without hunters to decrease numbers, the population will increase and out grow the resources they have. They will began harming other species by eating resources they need. An over population of deer will cause greater crop damage that will eventually lead to increase food prices as fields are destroyed by deer. An overpopulation will lead to more deer invading suburban areas and more deer darting across highways, which will lead to more accidents. Ironically, the deer, who animal rights activists argue is sweet, innocent, and harmless, is actually the most dangerous animal in America due to the number of car crash related deaths they cause. Another reason as to why hunting is declining is due to lack of people to take the younger generations hunting.

    Hank
    Yes, living in Pennsylvania I knew Game Dept. biologists and they are as conscientious and concerned as can be about culling and maintaining a resource - but they will never get it right, nature does not work that way.  But without hunters, we will be forced to wall off nature because it can be really dangerous on highways there.

    Deer are rodents, basically. They will destroy a farm if they are allowed.
    Gerhard Adam
    I always love how this argument is framed.  It's always the deer or [insert whatever animal] that is overpopulated and presenting a hazard.  It's never humans that are overpopulating all the habitats and driving more and more species into extinction or closer encounters with humans.

    Mundus vult decipi
     It's never humans that are overpopulating all the habitats and driving more and more species into extinction or closer encounters with humans.
    We have an island-provincial park (Boucherville island) next to Montreal in the wide St. Lawrence River where deer roam free. It's been called the animal kingdom's Hong Kong. Because food is scarce in the winter for the relatively large population, deer are doing the expected thing--migrating over the frozen river but into human-populated areas.

    The park people did not want to cull the deer. The article was written five years ago. My family  visit the park at least once a year. We hike all over and don't get the sense that it's overflowing with deer. Something may have changed in the past half-decade.

    A more pronounced problem exists on a much larger island (Anticosti) where deer were introduced over a century ago. Without natural predators, the island now has 40% of the province's deer population, and they choose to bring in hunters. They make at least $16 million doing so, charging 4000-5000 hunters $4000 apiece to shoot at the white-tailed deer for 4-5 days. It's the main economic engine for the island's 200 human residents. 'Probably a reason they don't bring in wolves who will kill but without paying anyone.
    MikeCrow
    Again, I don't really disagree, but what do you suggest be done?

    There are no predators in the area, and most places don't allow hunting. I live next to a park, and they come through and eat everything, we've tried to help them by feeding them in the winter, because we were afraid they'd starve. We have a dog now, and they seem to stay away more. We've even crashed our motorcycle after a group ran in front of us. But there is a population problem that needs some solution. Even if we were to all move back to the city, with no predators, they will still over populate the area, but it will be much worse because instead of thousands, there'll be 10's of thousands.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    Hunting is the solution. Biologists in places where hunting is common, like Pennsylvania, do a lot of work to try and maintain ecosystem balance in a cost-effective way, Given a choice between, hunting, sterilization or letting animals take over and sending humans to gas chambers to give deer more room, I am going with hunting.
    MikeCrow
    That picture is my backyard, behind that, in National Park, no hunting allowed. Most of the local cities don't allow hunting, though a few hire "sharpshooters" to cull the herds, most I think donate the meat to local homeless shelters.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Sending humans to gas chambers?  Really?

    Of course hunting is the solution, especially when every effort is made to destroy natural predators.  Oh yeah, we have to do that because of human encroachment too.  I guess the only solution is to keep supporting a burgeoning human population until it crashes on its own.  Then we can all shrug our shoulders and ask ... "who could've seen that coming".
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Most of the first world's population has stabilized, other than for immigrants from 2nd and 3rd world countries (at least that's what I've been reading for a while now).
    So, who do we tell to stop having kids, and why would they even listen to us?
    When we show up and start preaching birth control, again I've read, in many places that doesn't go over so well.
    Which, leaves me with the only solution that i think will work, raise the standard of living for everyone else, which seems to be the only "natural" birth control.
    Never is a long time.
     raise the standard of living for everyone else, which seems to be the only "natural" birth control.
    That and education is indeed what gets people to limit the size of families.   

    Hank
    Right. The answers are out there without being Draconian.  However, we can't educate deer.
    Gerhard Adam
    ... raise the standard of living for everyone else...
    Great idea, except that there is zero effort going into making that happen, and there aren't enough resources to allow it.  Forgetting blatant hubris.  The truth of the matter is that despite the ability to do so, we don't even have the political will to ensure people don't starve.  We don't do anything to affect the rights of individuals [and protections] in other parts of the world. 

    You might argue that other parts of the world aren't our responsibility, but I would argue that if we're going to be dumping our capital into those areas and helping grow their economies, we damn well do have a right to say something about how things go.

    Maybe the population will stabilize, but this seems more like wishful thinking [or hoping] than anything else.  However, education is problematic when there is this prevailing "anti-science" attitude towards population control, by supporting only those discussions that foster the notion that science can solve all our problems now and into the future without us actually having to make any difficult decisions.
    When we show up and start preaching birth control, again I've read, in many places that doesn't go over so well.
    It's not about preaching, it's about education.  However, that's not the problem.  The issue is that we want to do everything to circumvent the effects of natural selection.  So, if an area can't support a population size, we'll do everything we can to supplement so that the population becomes an even bigger stressor on the environment.  No matter how it's examined, the bottom line is that we don't want the rules of biology to apply to humans.  As a result, we will be forever trying to play catch-up on a runaway population holding out the carrot of hope that "one day" we'll make it alright.  It will never be alright if we don't face the problem head-on and take it seriously.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Then answer my question, who decides?

    I also disagree on resources and food, remember much the same was said in the 70's, where according to some, there'd be less than a billion humans living by now.
    Same with things like 3rd world wages, when the average person makes 25 cents a day, a job paying ~$1.00 a day is a huge improvement, and as the wages rise, they start to elevate others, and the standard of living increases for everyone.

    But I don't want to argue about it. I know you disagree, I think you underestimate us.

    But just answer who decides.

    I felt it needed some sorting.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    But just answer who decides.
    The people that always decide whether to have kids or not.  I'm certainly not advocating for some independent third party.  However, if we keep creating the incentives to have more children, then we shouldn't be surprised when people do.

    I expect you do disagree on the resources and food, but where's your evidence?  I'm not interested in how many humans you think may be theoretically possible, because then you'd have to answer the question of; what then?

    All the actions that have enabled seven billion people to reside on this planet have also done increasingly greater and greater amounts of damage on the rest of the planet as well.  So, are we to just let it go until it runs its course?  Certainly no one can be foolish enough to believe that human population growth can be sustained infinitely.  The notion of colonizing space is simply fantasy, since you can never move enough people at any time [even if it were feasible] to reduce population growth on earth.  So what do we do when we run out of options?  Who decides then?
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    but where's your evidence
    The fact that every such prognostication has been wrong for the history of mankind.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    OK, so by that argument if I jump from a height of 1 foot, then 2 feet, and then 3 feet, ... I can safely conclude that since nothing happened in the past I can jump from 100 feet?

    Nevermind that the human population has never been this large, so there is no "history of mankind" for this kind of thing.

    BTW, you are also wrong, since there is a lot of biological evidence that populations cannot survive infinite growth.  So, if you're claiming that humans are the exception, then you need something beyond anecdote, as to why you believe biology doesn't apply to us.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    I would hope you'd notice the force increases with each foot, and at some point between 3 and 100, you'd decided it was high enough, at least until you start working on a sail, or parachute.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Oh, you mean in the same way I might notice that resources become more difficult to acquire, and that food production becomes more intensive and requires more exotic solutions?  Dwindling habitats?  Like that?
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Yes, I read somewhere in the last week, that all of the humans on the planet could fit in the area of like texas with out "over crowding".
    Think Pendulum.........
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Think bullshit.

    Figure it out.  7 billion + people on the planet.  Total land mass on planet earth =  57,505,693.767 sq mi.  This gives 121 people per square mile of every dry spot on the planet.  That's not even counting land required for growing food, domesticated animals [i.e. cows, pigs, etc.] and it doesn't consider the subset that is actually arable. 

    Texas = 268,800 square miles.

    Using Texas, that's 26,042 people per square mile.   That's one person every 970 square feet [a 31 x 31 foot room].  I suspect you have a house considerably larger than that, so let's call bullshit on this one. 

    It does indicate just how far people are willing to go before they call something "over-crowded".

    However, the true genius of the human species is that while we continue to engage in this unfettered growth, we're applying our vast intellect to producing technologies that require fewer people.  Yaahhhh!


    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Okay, maybe I didn't remember it right, and it was the population of the US.
    But at the density of Singapore, you could put the worlds population in 385k sq miles, 1.3 or so Texas's.
    I wouldn't want to live there, but space isn't a restriction until we have a lot more people.

    However, the true genius of the human species is that while we continue to engage in this unfettered growth, we're applying our vast intellect to producing technologies that require fewer people.

    So, let's convert to human labor for farming, transportation, everything. Hell let's just get rid of ATM's, look at all the bankers that we could give a job to.

    But BTW, the same argument was made when steam power became prevalent.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    You didn't remember it wrong.  It's on several links, and it is uniformly wrong and uniformly bullshit.

    I suppose the original claimant figured that humans just lived on air, and would acquire their food and dispose of their waste by divine intervention.  Of course, they also would never have to go anywhere [since there wouldn't be roads], and there wouldn't be a need to have an infrastructure to support their lives.

    In short, the original claimant of these numbers simply presumed that we could all continue to live on this planet like caged animals, and that wouldn't be "over-crowded".
    So, let's convert to human labor for farming, transportation, everything. Hell let's just get rid of ATM's, look at all the bankers that we could give a job to.
    Well, that's kind of the point isn't it.  How do we rationalize a growing population with less work for those people to do to make a living?  Get rid of whatever you like, but consider the question.  Are we all to simply lay around like some Roman emperor being fed grapes while robots do our bidding?

    People have got to get a grip and realize that this is a far-ranging problem that we are oblivious to even considering the consequences of.  You can make fun, but the basis of our society is the explicit assumption that everyone has a place in it, to contribute, and in return, be able to acquire the resources needed to live.  You tell me, how you think it's going to play out if that fundamental premise is flawed or no longer honored.
    Mundus vult decipi