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CASH Courier > 2005 Summer Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from Summer 2005 Issue 

WILDLIFE WATCHING - A NEW APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT

BY PETER MULLER

In a recent article we discussed the vast potential of wildlife watching as an up and coming enterprise for government agencies and businesses. Evidently, many government entities have already bought into it wholesale. A quick survey on the Internet showed that at least 37 states are having state-sponsored programs that are specifically oriented toward wildlife watching. The states that we found to have such programs in a quick lookup are (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California:, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The remaining 13 states may have similar programs that didn’t show up in this search.

The agencies have uniformly adopted a print and electronic logo to stand for wildlife watching. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has come with a decal dedicated to Wildlife Watching that can be ordered from the agency for $28 and gives the bearer a Vehicle Use Permit to access Department of Fish and Wildlife sites. We note that this is the first version of what may become a Wildlife Watching license to fund the agencies.

In a slightly different approach, Tennessee has issued a Wildlife Watching Stamp to help fund its programs.

Whatever methods will be ultimately adopted by the majority of states remains to be seen, but indications are the agencies will use some sort of licensing plan to increase their revenue stream from wildlife watching.

The Federal Government also has wildlife watching programs in The Bureau of Land Management, The Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service, The National Park Service, The National Marine Fisheries Service, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Numerous local government entities from villages to counties have wildlife watching programs.

We feel it is essential to keep an eye on the state agencies and their newly found love for wildlife watching. In almost all cases the agency that is now starting to promote wildlife watching is the same agency that has been promoting fishing, hunting and trapping all along.

From all government statistics, it is clear that hunting and trapping are very surely (though not quickly enough to suit us) headed for oblivion. The actual numbers of hunters, and especially their percentage of the population, is dropping rapidly in every state in the country, and therefore, of course, in the U.S. as a whole. The main reason seems to be the inability to attract young (or at least new) hunters to replace old hunters that have gone on to their just reward. In most states, for every 100 hunters that are lost, only between 60 and 70 new hunters are gained. This kind of loss cannot be sustained too long. The agencies must realize by now that their traditional revenue base is drying up. The Fish and Game agencies are in the same some position that manufacturers of lanterns for horse drawn carriages were in when the automobile cut into the carriage market. The smarter companies switched to making headlights for cars and are still around today.

A logical self-preservation question for those agencies is: can we develop or find a new customer-base? Most of them seem to be, at least tentatively, exploring wildlife watching in that light. The interesting question for us is, how will this evolve into a revenue producing venture for the agencies and how should the Animal Rights community view this paradigm shift.

We’ve seen some embryonic efforts at raising revenue by the Washington State decal that gives the bearer access to all Department of Fish and Wildlife sites and the Tennessee Wildlife Watching Stamp. Will these evolve into wildlife watching licenses? Will there be more ranger-led tours of wildlife areas for a fee as already exists in some National Parks? Undoubtedly all of these avenues of revenue will be explored and exploited by the agencies.

What about the animal protective community? How should we react? Should we support these trends or fight against them? It seems obvious that unobtrusive observation of wildlife is preferable to killing wildlife. The problem is that the same cadre of good ole boys that run the Fish and Game agencies will now want funding for their agencies derived from wildlife watching. With their well-established predilection for killing and destroying wildlife, can they be trusted with funding from this new source? Our concern would be that they may well decide to use the new-found revenues to support hunting until the last hunter falls off his tree-stand. Giving them more revenues to manage wildlife is like hiring the last surviving horse-thief to park our cars.

We would be much happier to see new (or at least different) agencies take over managing wildlife watching and using the funding from that source to manage our eco-systems for biodiversity and their environmental health.

Peter Muller is VP of C.A.S.H.

This article has been reprinted in the Wildlife Watch Binocular. Thousands of copies of the WWB are separately distributed. If you would like to volunteer to distribute WWB in your area, please contact us at wildwatch@verizon.net

 

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