Who's Really Saving Wildlife?Opinion
OPINION — Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and tell it like it is. Like that time my wife caught me raking the carpet with a two-foot two by four, when I was supposed to be vacuuming. The board made marks on the rug, just like the vacuum cleaner does, with a lot less noise, so it appeared to have been vacuumed. And in my own defense, I never would’ve gotten caught if she hadn’t come home early. But I had to fess up, which caused the serendipitous affect of her not letting me vacuum anymore. Maybe we’ll get a similar result this time.
Texas is supposed to be better at most things than other states, but that isn’t always the case. Colorado, for example, levies fines on those who erect high fences on their property, if the fence encloses native game animals. The landowner can either run all the indigenous wildlife out of the area before closing it up, or pay the state for the estimated value of the game that has been, in effect, removed from access by other citizens. I’ve always wondered why Texas doesn’t do something like that. And I’ve written about it before in this column, which is what prompted my first series of death threats.
Colorado recently enacted another bold move I think all states should emulate. A new law went into affect on 1 July 2020 which requires a Colorado hunting or fishing license for anyone who enters a State Wildlife Area or State Land Trust area. Whether you intend to hunt or fish or not, you can be fined for traipsing around in those places without a license.
Now, on the surface, this seems like just more government regulation, and normally I’m against that sort of thing. Like when my three sons and I floated Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande. We were required to rent a ‘river potty,’ whether we planned to answer nature’s call during the overnight trip or not. If we’d been caught without said river potty we could’ve been fined. So we spent $30 to rent the potty. We still did our business in the tall grass, but we didn’t get fined. Or maybe we did. I’m still a little vague on that one.
But as soon as I heard about Colorado’s new law I was stoked. My wife read an article about it on her phone as we were driving from Glenwood Springs to Ouray, because she was bored with the beautiful scenery filled with purple mountains’ majesty and fruited plains. Go figure.
I said, “Finally, the anti-hunters and anti-fishers and anti-everything else will have to pay at least part of their fair share of the cost of supporting wildlife. It’s about time.” Which it is.
For years I’ve been pointing out that hunting is one of the most important and valuable conservation tools there is. Over 95% of the funds used to support wildlife comes from hunters and fishers. Between hunting and fishing license fees, game law violation fines, and Pittman-Robertson Act revenue, hunters foot the bill for wildlife conservation. The money goes for wildlife habitat acquisition and development, wildlife conservation research, and enforcement of game laws, among other things. Without hunters, there would hardly be any game left, or any plains for them to fruit all over.
The Pittman-Robertson Act alone accounts for a huge chunk of wildlife conservation funds. Officially called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, P-R has garnered over $12 billion since 1939 for wildlife. The money comes from an 11% federal excise tax on finished hunting products, and is built into the prices we pay when we buy those things, so it isn’t itemized on receipts. We pay the tax when we buy guns, bows, ammunition, and handguns. The money goes into the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, and is used to directly benefit wildlife and support hunter education programs. And hunters are happy to pay it.
Anti-hunting organizations, on the other hand, provide less than 5% of the funds that aid wildlife, and they aren’t happy about doing that. Most of the money collected by Friends of Wildlife, peta, and other such groups goes to pay executive salaries and buy propaganda to advertise what terrible people hunters are.
So it’s no surprise that animal rights organizations are angry about Colorado’s new law. Friends of Animals is suing Colorado Parks & Wildlife over the legislation, claiming it makes it appear that they support consumptive wildlife uses, such as hunting and fishing. They think there should be some indication, maybe on the license, that differentiates them from us horrible people who actually hunt and fish. Such lawsuits cost the states money that could be used to aid wildlife, but that’s beside the point.
I think the law is a great idea. It won’t cause the animal rights advocates to pay their fair share; it won’t even be a drop in the bucket compared to what hunters pay to support wildlife, but it’s a start. And while I admit that buying a hunting or fishing license when you aren’t going to hunt or fish may seem unfair, there are ways the antis could save a few bucks here and there to pay for it.
For starters they could sell the vacuum cleaner, and just rake the carpet with a two by four every week or two . . .
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