Millions of Americans enjoy the great outdoors every year, but only one group puts their money where their mount is: hunters. Revenue generated from hunting licenses and taxes on guns and ammo generates approximately 60 percent of any given state’s wildlife and conservation fund.
But the number of hunters has significantly decreased over the last fifty years as more Americans move to urban and suburban areas, and that has conservationists worried, according to a recent report from National Public Radio.
“Without a change in the way we finance fish and wildlife conservation, we can expect the list of federally threatened and endangered species to grow from nearly 1,600 species today to perhaps thousands more in the future,” a panel on sustaining America’s fish and wildlife resources recently warned.
Only about five percent of Americans hunt, half the number who participated in the sport in the 1960s. That trend is expected to accelerate as Baby Boomers age out without enough youngsters to take their place. NPR cites urbanization, restricted access to hunting areas, and the rise of video games and all-consuming youth sports as reasons for the lack of interest in hunting amongst younger generations.
State budgets are already strapped for money, and it’s tough to convince legislators to push for new taxes and fees to fund wildlife conservation. But hunters already open their pocketbooks to protect wildlife, so many efforts have focused on renewing interest in the sport.
One such organization in Wisconsin recruits and trains new hunters by reaching out to less traditional hunting demographics. NPR interviewed first-time hunter Beth Wojcik, a graduate student who doesn’t fit the standard hunting mold.
“I’m actually a vegetarian,” she admitted. “Studying wildlife ecology, though, I gained a better understanding of how we’re managing wildlife, and hunting is an effective way to do that.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) told us via email that they’re also working at the state and local levels to give hunters more access to the land they need.
NSSF is working with Congress to push through the Making Public Lands Public Act. This initiative would ensure that a portion of funds are permanently made available from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for land acquisition to ensure the public has access to the more than 38 million acres of isolated public lands either through ownership of private properties or geographic boundaries.
At the state level, the NSSF has been working to expand Sunday Hunting, and they recently secured victories in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina.
The NSSF’s focus on the hunting community is well-founded. But that still may not be enough to right the ship. The non-gun owning public may need to start chipping in.
“We all value the resource to different degrees,” Jim Wipperfurth, who volunteers in Wisconsin’s outreach program, told NPR. “We put our money where our mouth is, we’re involved. But for the general public, to get them to spend the money is the difficult part.”
They may value it in their mind, he says, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to spend a dollar on it.
NPR did not address the elephant in the room. The war on hunters and the demonization of gun owners as a contributing factor to the decline in hunting. “Guns are evil,” so says Hollywood, the media, Dems in Washinton, educators, corporate elites, activists groups and on and on. So, it should come as no surprise that young people are increasingly reluctant to exercise their 2A rights.