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2 June 1999 Issue

License Plates Revisited

In a recent issue of Animal Writes we brought you information on Florida
"conservation" license plates that were really just helping hunters.
As follow-up information, we are including the following editorial by
AR Actvst@aol.com regarding this issue:

I especially enjoyed the article on the "conservation" license plates. Here is
where we run into trouble with the hunters.

As you correctly reported, funds to state game departments are basically used
for the benefit of hunters, regardless of their source. Game departments in all
states are controlled by hunters. They are NOT interested in conserving
wildlife, they are interested in conserving HUNTING!!!!!!

These wildlife license plates are indeed a fraud. But what are ARAs to do?
Oppose them? The headlines read then "Animal Group Opposes Funding for
Animals."

In some states, where the hunting culture is not strong, such as Illinois, the
state makes the assurance that the license plate funds are to be used for "non-
game" wildlife habitat, or state park operation. Cute. Guess what? Most state
parks in Illinois are open to hunters. They even operate canned pheasant hunts
in 8 state parks using hand raised birds released only minutes before they are
"hunted". All these parks include an annual "youth hunt" where the park is
reserved for hunters under age 16 to hunt the tame birds. These publicly
owned state parks are closed to all other activity during the canned hunt
"pheasant season" which runs from the first Saturday in November until
December 31. Armed Conservation Police Officers guard the gates of each
park to prevent any access except by licensed hunters. Imagine if boaters
demanded exclusive use of state parks for 8 weeks each year.....imagine if
horseback riders, snowmobilers, hikers, campers, bird watchers, African
Americans, Jews, Kosovo refugees, people with blonde hair, or people born
on February 29, each demanded 8 weeks exclusive use of the state parks.
Imagine also that they demanded armed guards provided by the state to be
sure that ONLY their special group was allowed in. Now imagine that all these
groups demanded that the state provide them with horses, boats, hiking
shoes, snowmobiles, gasoline, binoculars, or kosher food. Now imagine that
these same groups coerce the state government to pass laws to arrest and
charge with a crime any person who expressed a dislike to their group's
demands!!!!!!!!! THIS is exactly what hunters have done. If a a non-hunter is
found on the property of an Illinois State park during the canned hunt pheasant
season, you will be charged with "Hunter harassment" or "Non-hunter in a
hunting area." Both could land you in jail for up to 180 days!!!!!!!

The "non-game habitat" maintained by these license plate funds is the same
habitat used by hunters to pursue game animals. There really IS a sucker born
every minute.

Hunters "pay for conservation"? Guess again. In 1996, the Iowa Department
of Natural Resources did a nationwide study to determine how state hunting
license and stamp fees are used. For every dollar in fees, on average, 71
cents goes for enforcement of hunting regulations. Nearly three-quarters of
hunter dollars are used to police themselves. (And, I presume, to keep the rest
of us out of state parks when hunters are using them.) Imagine if 3/4 of your
property taxes were to pay for police......there would be something terribly
wrong with the system, wouldn't there be? Maybe your local police are run by
the "Sheriff of Nottingham"?

Another 15 cents is "administrative" costs "other than law enforcement."
A call to the Iowa DNR for clarification of that indicated that those costs
included office personnel, office space costs and printing fees for hunting
licenses and stamps, along with rewards paid to artists for the selected art-
work used on the stamps.

Of the remaining 14 cents, wildlife habitat programs were listed under the
"other" category. One can assume that the majority of that money was used
to promote larger populations of GAME animals. Any benefit to non-game is
incidental.

But what about the Pittman-Robertson funds so highly touted by hunters?
Well, those fees come from taxes on the sale of all sporting firearms and
ammunition, as well as boating equipment and accessories. This means that
all firearms owners pay these fees regardless of whether they hunt or not.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) nearly 80% of
P-R funds come from NON-hunters. But how are the funds distributed? 25%
are allocated for hunter education programs. 10% for public shooting range
development, the remainder for the restoration of game animal populations.

While our game animal populations thrive well beyond the ability of the habitat
to support them, thereby resulting in the "need" for hunting......not to mention
crop damage, disease, starvation and skyrocketing incidents of auto/animal
accidents, the perennial endangered species hang on by their claws for
another year. They are ignored by the system established of the hunters, by
the hunters, and for the hunters that is the "conservation" system in our
country.

Indeed, perhaps the best thing that could be done for our endangered animals
under this system would be to list them as game animals. Given the chance
to kill whooping cranes for fun, the hunters will dupe people out of money to
purchase more targets for themselves.

Hunters are the PROBLEM..........not the solution.

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