It’s important that I follow up on last week’s column about conservation funding to highlight how others are in fact “stepping up to the plate” to fund conservation. As you’ll see, their contributions are significant. I should further add that it wasn’t my intent last week to leave the impression that only hunters are funding conservation.
An interesting white paper that I intended to reference as a follow up column about conservation funding titled, “Wildlife Conservation & Management Funding in the U.S.” written by Mark E. Smith and Donald A. Molde, Oct. 2014, asked the question, “Who really pays for wildlife in the U.S.?” (Read the full article here: https://wyofile.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/SMITH-1.pdf)
The article says that using "public information about budgets of various conservation, wildlife advocacy and land management agencies, non-profit organizations, published studies and educated assumptions regarding sources of Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingle-Johnson Act federal excise monies from the sale of sporting equipment, the authors contend that approximately 95% of federal, 88% of non-profit, and 94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public.”
That’s right. The non-hunting public.
Although state funding was not considered in the authors’ paper, they wrote that while a substantial portion of state natural resource agency funding is received through the federal government via PRA and DJA funding, the authors also acknowledged that hunting and fishing license revenue “is rarely adequate to cover the direct costs of administering the related [state fish and wildlife management] programs.” Moreover, the authors concluded that for the purposes of their paper, “state-level funding can reasonably be classified as hunting or sportsmen services rather than wildlife management.”
That license revenue/state-level funding is deemed by the authors as services rather than wildlife management is debatable, but the real point of today’s column is to show you that there are many others, non-hunters included, that contribute mightily to conservation through both actions and dollars.
According to the authors’ findings, the National Wildlife Refuge System (we have a few national wildlife refuges here in northwest Minnesota, including Agassiz NWR and Tamarac NWR), refuge related conservation activities funded by the non-hunting public equated to roughly $263 million, whereas by hunters, just $13 million.
The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit environmental organization that has over one million members, is an organization dedicated to permanently protecting land and riparian areas worldwide. Of TNC’s total annual conservation funding of $859 million, about $819 million is funded by NHP. And in another example, around $85 million of The National Audubon Society’s total $89 million annual budget’s conservation activities are funded by NHP.
In contrast, the annual conservation activity budgets of Ducks Unlimited and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, $147 million and $54 million, respectively, are 99% funded by hunters. Even so, $2 million extra is provided to these non-profit conservation organizations from NHP ($1 million each).
Actual conservation lands under direct management that were purchased by hunter and non-hunter dollars (in millions of acres) are also noteworthy. For example, some 150 million acres are managed by the NWR system, of which 140.6 million acres were purchased by NHP. Even acquired state lands that are under direct management throughout the U.S., according to the authors, were mostly funded by NHP. Just 4.6% of state lands were funded by hunters, or 7.9 million acres vs. 187.9 million acres funded by NHP.
Indeed, there’s much more to the story of conservation funding—who funds what and how much in dollars and acres—than the space I’m allotted here can convey, but one fact is indisputable: if it weren’t for conservation minded citizens dedicated to protecting natural resources here in the United States and everywhere, imagine what the world would look like today.
I should like to close with another thought. While I drew heavily from the authors’ paper, and I agree that their work is valid, the paper wasn’t, as far as I know, published in a peer reviewed professional journal. It nonetheless effectively shows that conservation contributions are shared across the spectrum of conservationists.
This isn’t to say, however, that all’s well and good with conservation funding. Communication, cooperation and collaboration are still necessary among all conservationists everywhere. We need to work together to leverage available conservation funding while seeking innovative ways to increase and expand conservation funding as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Next week — back wild birds and critters!
Blane Klemek is a Minnesota DNR wildlife manager. He can be reached at email@example.com.