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
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
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
Peter Muller is VP of C.A.S.H.
This article has been reprinted in the Wildlife Watch Binocular.
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