There’s no question, hunters are the true conservationists in this country, on this continent and on this planet for that matter. Sometimes the credit and accolades for major conservation efforts are not properly directed to the right people.
I was recently watching the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting, a very dry watch to say the least, but filled with some interesting nuggets as always regarding wildlife management issues within the Cowboy state. During the winter meeting a fella from a fairly obscure “conservation” organization stood up to talk to the commission. He proceeded to tell the commissioners that his group had contributed over $5 million to wildlife conservation efforts in Wyoming over the past few years. That sounded pretty substantial even to me. Quickly after those words echoed off the back wall of the mostly empty room the hackles on a few of the commissioner’s necks went up and the questions abruptly kicked in, and it got pretty interesting and enlightening from there.
Come to find out, this organization receives a double-digit kickback percentage of every single “conservation” tag in the entire state each and every year simply to select and distribute the actual tags to other conservation organizations to be auctioned or raffled off to finally generate huge amounts of money for wildlife projects. I don’t need to tell most of you that a roughly 10% cut of every single commissioner and governor’s tag in the entire state adds up to a very large amount of money each year. The conversation went south from there as the group presenting to the commission appeared to try and take credit for the money raised by auctioning and raffling the public tags which are actually the property of the residents and tax payers of Wyoming. As you can imagine this did not go over well with the commission at the time, and it got me thinking as well.
The wildlife of every state belongs to the residents of that state, that’s a fact. Sportsmen and sportswomen solely fund the Game and Fish Department in Wyoming and most other western states as well. To me it would only make sense that these auction and raffle tags belong to the sportsmen and sportswomen of each individual state from which they are derived, regardless of when, where and how they are actually monetized.
In my mind, I think it only fair to thank the sportsmen of each state for these tags that are highly monetized to the benefit of the wildlife of that state. All too often do I hear and see organizations and departments for that matter taking credit and patting themselves on the back for funds raised for “conservation” through the auction and raffle of a public resource that belongs solely to the resident hunters and fishermen of that state. The quiet majority seems to never demand credit or respect even when it is completely justified and necessary.
As most of you know, while I am no big fan of these auctions, I think they create a very, very slippery slope for moneys to be pushed to overhead, payrolls, conventions and other things we don’t have room to go into here, I would however like to raise the point yet again, that hunters and fishermen are the true conservationists and continually bear 100% of the burden for funding wildlife management in each and every Western state.
The next time you hear about the Montana Governor’s sheep tag bringing in nearly half a million dollars, don’t thank the Governor of Montana, thank the hard-working sportsmen and sportswomen of the great state of Montana for sacrificing their opportunity at a giant ram to raise the much-needed funds to keep conservation moving forward in their state for sheep, elk, deer, wolverines, cutthroat trout and sage grouse just to name a few. Same goes for the likes of the Arizona elk tag, the Nevada mule deer tag, and on and on.
Giving credit where credit is due, is just another aspect of keeping the very expensive and critical ball of conservation under the North American model rolling forward. Just my two cents on the subject.
I very much agree that hunters and anglers are by far the largest collective of conservationists this country has. However, be sure to also credit the people that actually do the work on the ground to ensure the quality and longevity of the game species you pursue. These individuals have devoted their lives to conserving and enhancing these species for a very modest paycheck. Writing a check and toting a rifle is not enough to call yourself a true conservationist. Volunteer for habitat workshops, or wildlife surveys if you want to take the next step in being a conservationist. We’re all in this together!
Wildlife does not belong to the residents of a state, period. Wildlife does not “belong” to anyone. The right to manage herds, through hunting or other practices is a power given to state governments. That’s where it begins and ends. To intimate that each person who lives in a western state is generous by giving “their” tag to a raffle or non-resident is akin to… a conservation group saying they contributed $5 million to Wyoming wildlife conservation when in fact it wasn’t their money.