Daily News Editorial
The last time you drove through a county or state park or national park or forest, did you see any wildlife?
What a silly question. Of course you did. The only question is how much wildlife you saw.
When we really think about it, there is a group of people out there that helps make our wildlife viewing possible — the American sportsman.
Sportsmen, through licenses and excise fees, are responsible for helping to develop wildlife habitat for everyone else to enjoy. The amount that sportsmen pay to develop wildlife habitat far exceeds the game and fish they harvest.
According to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, recently more than $700 million was distributed to 56 state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies to help fund such things as fish and wildlife conservation efforts, boat access, shooting ranges, and hunter education.
The funding comes from federal excise taxes on the purchases of firearms, ammunition, archery and angling equipment, and boat motor fuels.
In Iowa, more than $5.4 million came in the form of Wildlife Restoration funds with another $5.7 million coming from Sport Fish Restoration funds.
Over the past seven decades, sportsmen have generated a whopping $11 billion to help support wildlife conservation efforts. This year, $310 million will go to wildlife restoration, $61 million for hunter education and shooting range programs, and $398 for sport fish restoration. The federal government through U.S. Fish and Wildlife administers 75 percent of the cost with states matching 25 percent.
The money goes for managing wildlife, conducting habitat research, wildlife studies and surveys, and acquiring lands for wildlife and public access.
Nearly two-thirds of Wildlife Restoration funds have gone toward buying state wildlife management areas. To date, 68 million acres have been bought, with easements on another 390 acres.
So what about the argument that hunters decrease wildlife populations?
In all reality, the sportsman-funded Wildlife Restoration program has helped bring back such species as wild turkey, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, and black bear.
Hunting has become safer, too, with 8.9 million hunter education and safety students having benefitted.
As for fishing, the Sport Fish Restoration program has helped pay for stocking fish, improving sport fish habitat, and paying for aquatic resource education and fisheries research. Money has gone toward building boat ramps and piers and to buying land for public access for recreational boaters.
So the next time you see that deer or elk or bear, or see the gleam in a child’s eyes upon first seeing a new animal, remember that it was a sportsman who helped make it all come true.