Dan Geddings: The History of Wildlife Conservation
BY DAN GEDDINGS
Hunters and anglers paved the way for wildlife conservation. Outdoor enthusiasts have spent time and money managing America’s natural resources. Our dollars and our habitat work have made a difference in natural ecosystems. Game and landscapes have benefited from our efforts, and other non-game wildlife has also thrived as a result.
From the beginning, President Theodore Roosevelt, who was an avid hunter, led the charge to create wildlife programs, preserve lands, and establish national parks. Roosevelt wrote about his hunting adventures and his personal conservation ethic.
Aldo Leopold, the author of “A Sand County Almanac”, detailed wildlife management philosophies in his writings and described a “land ethic” that changed attitudes towards our natural resources and launched a national conservation movement.
In 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act was established. He imposed a federal excise tax on ammunition and sporting firearms. The law provides funds to each state to manage wildlife and their habitats. The law has been amended several times and has generated over $12 billion for conservation. The Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, also known as the “duck stamp,” has generated more than $800 million for the purchase and lease of wetland habitat since 1934. Duck hunters are required to have a valid stamp in their possession, but anyone can purchase the stamp.
The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act was passed in 1950. Commonly known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, it provides financial assistance for state fish restoration and management plans and projects.
These programs were not imposed on outdoor enthusiasts, but championed by them. Hunters and anglers have worked hard to get these laws passed for the good of the resource. Non-hunters have also benefited from the programs by engaging in hobbies such as bird watching, nature photography, hiking and other outdoor activities. State wildlife management programs and law enforcement efforts are funded by license sales and taxes.
In South Carolina, wild turkeys have been trapped in the Lowcountry and moved to suitable habitats across the state. This is a tremendous conservation success story. White-tailed deer have been restocked upstate and are now our first big game. Our Department of Natural Resources, funded primarily by sportsman money, has done a tremendous job for all of our state’s wildlife.
Private non-profit organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Quality Deer Management Association, and the National Wild Turkey Federation have raised millions of dollars from sportsmen for wildlife management activities, conservation programs, and hunting advocacy. . Dollars donated by members of these groups fund conservation work in their own neighborhoods and across North America.
Hunting clubs, supported by their members, manage properties for the benefit of wildlife and fishing. Food plots, prescribed burns and timber management activities are carried out to improve wildlife habitat on private lands, sometimes at great expense to the landowner. Pond owners establish brush piles, fertilize and lime the water, and manage fish populations.
We pay the bills and try to give back more than we take.
Email Dan Geddings at [email protected]