The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter
Fall-Winter 2013 Issue
Hunters Beware! The Wildlife Watchers Are Coming!!!
By Peter Muller
In some of our past articles in the C.A.S.H.
Courier, we have pointed out that the numbers of hunters have decreased
consistently over the last twenty-five years, and the median age of
hunters is steadily increasing. None of this bodes well for businesses or
agencies that depend on hunting for their revenue. In economic terms,
hunting is a “dying business.”
On the other hand, the number of wildlife
watchers is increasing. The concomitant spending increase of the wildlife
watchers is now far outstripping the fiscal contributions that the hunting
community has been claiming to make to the local and state economies.
Click to enlarge
The wildlife management agency of each state, along with the US Fish and
Wildlife Service, relies for its funding to a large degree on the monies
brought in by hunters, both directly through license sales as well as
indirectly through federal allocation of funds (Pittman-Robertson), based on
a formula in which the number of license sales is a critical factor.
With the money spent on “recreational enjoyment of wildlife” shifting in all
states from hunting to wildlife watching the agencies are now starting to
look for ways to tap into wildlife watching spending to make up for the
losses due to the diminishing revenue from hunters.
In an article
published on Sunday, September 15, 2013 by Laura Lundquist, a staff writer
for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, titled “Wages from Wildlife Watchers — FWP
[Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks] Takes Measured Approach to Adding New
Wildlife Stakeholders” the imbalance of the potential contributions
from hunters and wildlife watchers in Montana is discussed.
states in part:
The dwindling number of sportsmen may require FWP to turn
to a new funding pool: the nongame user. Wildlife watchers and photographers
are a growing segment of the population that outnumbers sportsmen 5-to-1
nationwide. In 2011, wildlife watchers spent more than $400 million on
viewing equipment and travel in Montana….
In 2011, when the number of
hunters appears to have rebounded nationwide [Lundquist’s statement was in
error, please see C.A.S.H. article for an explanation of this common error
at www.all-creatures.org/cash/cc2013-wi-cooking.html], 50,000 fewer
hunters ventured into Montana’s wild lands, according to the survey. That
estimate is not exact, but FWP financial analyst Hank Worsech said license
sales supports that decline. …hunters are retiring from the game and fewer
youth are coming in. Half of hunters are 50 or older….
FWP depends on
license sales for half its budget because it receives no money from the
state’s general fund. Federal money accounts for most of the rest. “We
operate in a world of, ‘We have a product to sell and we run on the revenue
we collect.’ We’re different from other state agencies — we run more like a
business,” said FWP Finance Division administrator Sue Daly. License sales
were brisk enough until four years ago. But since 2009, sales totals have
decreased while the bills continued to increase, putting the agency in the
This “problem” has become common in all states and the game agencies
are wrestling with how to access revenues from the “new stakeholders.”
C.A.S.H. would like to address two aspects of this:
1) Should the
current Wildlife Management agencies of the various states be given the
additional responsibility of managing the wildlife watching programs?
How can wildlife watchers participate in the funding of wildlife management
Most people familiar with the leadership and management of the
wildlife management agency in their state realize that the entire agency
from the head to the enforcement division, and down to the staff-level is
rooted in the hunting/fishing/trapping culture.
A few years ago, I had a
chance to be in a meeting with the then-commissioner of the New York State
DEC. He had been a state legislator prior to his appointment as
Commissioner of the DEC. I had at one time lived in his voting
district, and had met with him on numerous occasions to ask for his support
for animal-protective legislation. He was always responsive to our
requests and, in fact, had sponsored some of our proposed bills. When we met
with him in his role as commissioner of the DEC, and asked him to consider
relaxing the DEC policy against allowing immunocontraception of deer in New
York State, he and his staff became intransigent on that issue. After the
meeting, he took me aside out of earshot of everybody else and explained,
“Peter, you have to realize I now have a different constituency I have
That was a telling experience. Judging from their actions,
publications, and statements to media, the hunting/fishing/trapping culture
is solidly entrenched in these agencies, even though these activities are
unable to financially support them. To pump money into these agencies from a
source of “new stakeholders” (e.g. wildlife watchers) without eradicating
the existing “kill-culture” would simply go toward maintaining the
kill-culture embedded in these agencies for an additional period of time.
Let these agencies collapse under the increasing inability to meet expenses.
I’m sure there will demands by them for subsidies from the general fund of
the state. Hopefully the state legislators will have enough sense to
resist their cries.
The answer to our first question about whether
wildlife watching programs should be managed by the existing game agencies
seems to be a clear “no way.” – It won’t work and would simply continue an
unacceptable perversion that became entrenched in our state and federal
How can wildlife watchers participate in the funding of
wildlife management programs?
The answer seems to be that either a
totally new agency which is not a component of the current wildlife
management agency, or an existing agency not related to or subject to
pressure from the current kill-culture agency, is needed. The existing state
agencies that seem to fit that description, at least in some states, or with
some redefinitions and sharpening of their mission statements, seem to be
the tourism agencies.
If a department of tourism feels no pressure to
promote hunting/fishing/trapping in their state, they could be entrusted
with managing and promoting wildlife watching in the state and benefit from
an infusion of revenues derived from wildlife watching to finance those
efforts. Otherwise, a new state agency would have to be founded which
promotes wildlife watching and is funded by revenues from wildlife watching.
What are some ways of deriving funds from wildlife watching for such an
Several options readily come to mind:
wildlife watching areas, with per-visit, annual, or lifetime fees for access
A training program to certify individuals as guides for
wildlife watching ventures. The “wildlife watching guide-license” would be
renewable annually (with continuing education required) and it would permit
holders to charge for their services. A percentage of their fees would
benefit the wildlife watching agency.
Fee-based guide-led tours in
specifically designated wildlife watching areas.
Tourist shops carrying
books, photographic and optical equipment, etc. in designated wildlife
Ideally, we would like to see a federal tax on wildlife
watching equipment similar to the Pittman-Robertson excise tax on hunting
paraphernalia that currently funds the state wildlife killing agencies.
There are ways of funding wildlife watching so that the agencies would
become a self-funded agency. The activity would, of course, also
economically benefit the regions where wildlife watching takes place. In
2011 Wildlife Watchers spent over $9 billion for food and lodging in
the country – of that over $306 million was spent in New York State.
Rather than propping up the existing wildlife agencies with their entrenched
hunting/fishing/trapping culture, we should let them disappear as their
operations become unsustainable. At the same time, we need to
identify existing alternative agencies or encourage new agencies based on
wildlife watching to blossom by becoming self-funded.
Peter Muller is a Vice President of C.A.S.H.
and President of the League of Humane Voters
Go on to Hunting and Wildlife Watching Don't Mix Well
Fall-Winter 2013 Table of Contents
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