From the Heartland

This is my soap box, on these pages I publish my opinions on firearms and any other subject I feel like writing about.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wild Game populations then and now

Preface: In a previous post I wrote about Carrying Capacity and Habitat. This is a continuation of that trestise and was prompted by personal feedback and comments on that post.

A Century ago
In the late 1800's and into the early 1900's the Wildlife populations were at an all time low, some nearly to the point of extinction.

As an example in 1900 the whitetail deer population was estimated to be less than one half million. A few years later (1907) the native elk population did not number more than 41,000. The Turkey population in the early 1900's was thought to be less than 100,000 birds nation wide.

Much of the migratory game species like Ducks and Geese were also suffering a near extinction decline in numbers as well.

Many have blamed market hunting as the sole reason for these declines. Granted market hunting was prevalent at the time and did indeed have a negative effect, but the most telling effect on wildlife populations was the destruction of habitat by residential and commercial development.

What changed

Sportsman concerned with the decline of our precious resources, developed an idea took action in the 1930's. With the aid of Key Pittman a Senator from Nevada and A. Willis Robertson a representative from the state of Virginia the concerned Sportsmen created what became the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937.

The Pittman-Robertson Act established Federal aid in the restoration of wildlife species and their habitat by IMPOSING an 11 percent manufacturer's excise tax on ALL sporting rifles, shotguns and ammunitions. The Act was made law when it was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Pittman-Robertson Act has been amended twice since its inception; Once in 1970 to include a 10 percent manufacturer's excise tax on handguns, and again in 1972 with the help of Fred Bear to include an 11 percent manufacturer's tax on Archery gear.

These tax dollars are collected by the federal government and either used or disbursed out to the states to be used for sound wildlife management practices and habitat restoration.

What the money MUST be used for

There are provisions in the Act that prevent any government agency that is a reciprient of Pittman_Robertson funds from using them for anything else except wildlife management and habitat restoration.

Sportsman of that era were thoughtful and being familiar with the ways of government had the following 29 words written into the Pittman- Robertson Act as well;

".. And which shall include a prohibition against diversion of license fees paid by hunters for any purpose than the administration of said State fish and game department..."

In plain English it means that, much to the consternation of any number of Political Officials, all the money raised by the Pittman-Robertson Act and the sale of licenses cannot be used for anything except habitat restoration and wildlife management.

None of those dollars can be diverted for the pet pork barrel projects that so many Senators and representatives put forth on a yearly basis.

It was Hunters that saved the Wildlife in this country not PETA.

Consider the number of new firearms that has been sold in this Country since 1937. Add to that the number of rounds of ammunition that is also taxed at the 11 percent rate. How many new handguns have been sold since 1970 with the 10 percent tax added? How many new bows and all of the arrows that have been purchased since 1972? How many licenses to hunt are sold every year to American Sportsman?

Since the late 30's untold billions of dollars have passed through the federal coffers straight to the field. Every penny of that money was paid by Sportsman and/or firearms purchasers.

How much money has PETA collected in that time period and how much of what they have collected has actually benefited wildlife and the habitat they need to survive? Most of the money that PETA collects seems to wind up in the pockets of lawyers trying to stop hunting or fishing.

What has been the effect

Since 1937 and the advent of the Pittman-Robertson Act the Whitetail Deer population has risen from the paltry half million to a staggering 40 million plus animals today.

The Elk population in the U.S. has gone from the pitifully few 41,000 to nearly 1.5 million. If fact there are so many Elk today that they have been re-introduced in places like Kentucky with such success that there are hunting seasons on them in those areas.

The Canadian Goose population from a low of about one million birds in the 1940's has grown to an excess of 4 million birds. This increase has resulted in special seasons in some areas to help keep the number of birds in balance with the habitat.

These species are not the only ones that have benefited from the revenues generated by the Pittman-Robertson Act. Wild Turkey has gone from the measly 100,000 to an estimated 6 million birds in the same time frame.

Add to that all of the non-game species that share the same habitat that have had their numbers multiplied and it is easy to see that hunting has a tremendous positive effect on wildlife and the habitat they need to survive.

But .... but .... but .... how can this be?

There is so much hunting that goes on every year and the numbers of the species being hunted is increasing every year?

Understand that;

Regulated hunting has not nor will it ever result in an endangered or extinct species.

Let me say that again so that it is clear;

Regulated hunting has not nor will it ever result in an endangered or extinct species.

If a species were to ever decline to a critical level hunting would be STOPPED for that species until it's numbers returned to a harvestable level again.

Hunting is an effective tool that is utilized by Wildlife Managers who use sound biological and scientific data to manage not only the huntable game, but the entire range of biota (plants and animals) in the environment.

Professional Wildlife managers at the federal level and in the states have, for the most part, done such a fantastic job over the last eighty years with the money generated by the Pittman-Robertson Act and from other sources that there must be a fall harvest to keep the species in balance with the habitat.

Hunting benefits healthy wildlife by;

1) By generating the money needed to maintain good wildlife management and habitat restoration programs at both the federal, state and local levels.

2) Keeping the wildlife population at numbers that the habitat will support without damage to the habitat of the health of the species.

Hunting is not only a tradition, it is tool of vital necessity to maintain certain species of wildlife at healthy levels with their habitat.


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