It may seem on the surface that hunting and wildlife conservation are activities which conflict with each other. After all, the hunting of species such as deer and ducks diminishes their numbers which would seemingly be detrimental. However, hunters and conservation are closely related and for over a century and a half both have worked side-by-side to preserve much of the wildlife in the US.
Until the mid to late 19th century, hunters in North America pretty much killed what they want with no regulation of their efforts. The result was that many species, particularly the buffalo, were diminished to the point of nearly becoming extinct. The number of species that almost met their end included the following;
– Bighorn Sheep
– Black Bears
– Whitetail Deer
It was the effect of widespread, unregulated hunting that began to catch the eye of those who wanted to preserve wildlife in the US. By the late 19th century, both hunters and anglers began to form the foundation of what would become wildlife preservation. However, it took one of the most famous of all outdoorsmen, President Theodore Roosevelt in the early part of the 20th century, along with famous sportsmen like George Bird Grinnell to bring in government action that set down the regulations for hunting and forming conservation groups to help protect the wildlife in North America.
Once the formation of the wildlife conservation movement began in earnest, there were several principles used to guide the structure of how the balance of hunting and protecting wildlife would work. It all starts with the two standards that wildlife, including fish belong to every American and that their populations will be managed in such a manner that they will be sustained for as long as the country exists.
Public Trust: The natural resources which include the wildlife that live on public lands will be managed by responsible government agencies to ensure that they will exist for today and tomorrow. This means that future generations will be able to enjoy the wildlife and have places unfettered by human occupation so that the animals can live in their natural environment.
No Commercial Hunting: No mass hunting by commercial entities so that the populations of wildlife will remain protected. This is in response to the mass killing of buffalo during the 19th century by commercial businesses that nearly drove the species to extinction.
Rule of Law: The laws that govern hunting and fishing in the US are governed by the public where every citizen will have the right, responsibility, and opportunity to further enhance the conservation of wildlife and their use.
Everyone May Hunt: For all citizens, they have the opportunity to hunt and fish in the US as well as those who live in Canada.
Follow Regulations: All citizens may legally hunt certain animals according to the rules, regulations, and guidelines set forth in the law. This means that an individual may kill an animal for food, fur, in self-defense, or in protection of their property. However, they may not kill an animal for the sole purpose of taking the antlers, feathers, or horns.
Joint Responsibility: Because fish and wildlife will move and migrate across state and national border, enforcement of the laws must be uniform between the countries of Canada and the US. For well over a century, both countries have worked together to ensure proper coordination of management strategies for the wildlife and the habitats where they live. This is exemplified in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 which made it illegal in both countries to kill or capture migratory birds such as ducks and geese unless it was under strict hunting regulations. The cooperation between both countries continues today with all wildlife and the places where they live.
Emphasis on Science & Research: To maintain the proper protection of wildlife in North America, it is important to advance scientific research to keep track of animals, how they react to the presence of humans, and understand how they live so that proper rules and regulations can be written and enforced. One example is the placing of radio collars on animals such as elk which tracks their movements and shows where they mate, give birth, and how they react to the presence of humans when in the forest.
All of these principles come together to form a sound management strategy for the promotion of wildlife and the protection of the habitats where they live. It also recognizes the proper role of hunters in keeping the wildlife populations of animals such as deer and elk in check. This is important for the health of the species because overpopulation reaps troubling issues that may present a far greater danger in the long run. Regulated hunting keeps the populations to manageable and safe levels where they can thrive.
Around the US, hunters are required to purchase licenses, stamps, and tags which provides the funding for much of the wildlife conservation effort in the US. In addition, there are strictly enforced seasons for the hunting of certain animals and limits on how many can be killed. Every year, over $200 million is raised through such efforts which goes to support the wildlife, protecting their environment, and providing for safety courses and hunter education which in turn creates more responsible citizens when it comes to protecting the wildlife.
An example is the Federal Duck Stamp which is required for hunting waterfowl. The proceeds from the sales have allowed for the purchase of up to five million acres that provide a safe habitat not only for waterfowl, but many other species as well.
It should be noted that the US system of wildlife conservation was not only innovative when it was first developed, but remains unique in the world in terms of its relationship between hunting and conservation. In the US, this relationship has proven to be a very healthy one as it has allowed many species that were on the brink of extinction to survive and even thrive in today’s times.