Are hunters in the USA a major contributor to wildlife conservation: A negative aspect of Pittman-Robertson Act

A Mallard drake showing off its wings.
A Mallard drake showing off its wings. | Source
Wings of a hunted duck.
Wings of a hunted duck. | Source

The answer, by the way, is NO

"The great irony is that many (wildlife) species might not survive at all were it not for hunters trying to kill them. All the wings provided to Norman Saake and his colleagues throughout the country come from hunters, who fold them into prepaid envelopes, record the date and place of harvest, and mail them in. It is but one example of how the nation’s 12.5 million hunters have become essential partners in wildlife management. They have paid more than 700 million dollars for duck stamps, which have added 5.2 million acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System since 1934, when the first stamps were issued. They pay millions of dollars for licenses, tags, and permits each year, which helps finance state game agencies. They contribute more than 250 million dollars annually in excise taxes on guns, ammunition, and other equipment, which largely pays for new public game lands. Hunters in the private sector also play a growing role in conserving wildlife."

The above excerpt is from the November 2007 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Bird watchers in Dallas, Texas
Bird watchers in Dallas, Texas | Source

Hunters versus non-consumptive users like bird-watchers

In 1993, only 10 percent of the U.S. population were hunters. In 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service reports that only 6 percent of Americans are hunters. "Hunters are 89 percent male and 94 percent white," the report notes. Fishing and bird-watching are more popular than hunting. So why are our wildlife policies still so tilted in their support of hunting agendas? "

A wildlife ecotourist. Money from him and millions of people like him contribute more to nature conservation.
A wildlife ecotourist. Money from him and millions of people like him contribute more to nature conservation. | Source

One major reason why our policies are skewed is that it is thought that hunters are major contributors of conservation efforts.

Indeed, hunting associations fund the establishment and maintenance of wildlife reserves to keep them populated with prey for the benefit of the community. Numberwise, this is wrong. There are more people funding national parks and wildlife sanctuaries by visiting these places and enjoying nature. In addition, there are people who make their living by running ecotours, taking pictures and writing books and blogs on wildlife and nature. This group of people should have a much bigger say in how we manage our natural resources for our benefit and the benefit of our next generation than the hunters.

Duck stamps may be contributing to nature conservation but not as much as other means.
Duck stamps may be contributing to nature conservation but not as much as other means. | Source

Hunters always use that rationalization, "we fund conservation."

"Since we we fund habitat acquisition with Duck Stamps, we have a justification to hunt on National Wildlife Refuges."

They use it to justify hunting decisions that go against public opinion. They also use it to ward off any input or feedback from the majority of American citizens who are non-consumptive users, and who do not want to see our wildlife agencies continue to accord favors to hunters and ranchers.

The reason hunters get away with this is because of Pittman-Robertson Act.

What is Pittman - Robertson Act?

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, most often referred to as the Pittman–Robertson Act for its sponsors, Nevada Senator Key Pittman and Virginia Congressman Absalom Willis Robertson, was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 2, 1937 and became effective on July 1 of the following year. It has been amended many times with several of the major ones taking place during the 1970s and the most recent taking place in 2000.

Pittman-Robertson Land
Pittman-Robertson Land | Source
A stag brought down by a bow and arrows.
A stag brought down by a bow and arrows. | Source
Picture of a living male elk makes a better trophy.
Picture of a living male elk makes a better trophy. | Source

What does the Act entail?

From Wikipedia:

"The Pittman–Robertson Act took over a pre-existing 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Instead of going into the U.S. Treasury as it had done in the past, the money is kept separate and is given to the Secretary of the Interior to distribute to the States. The Secretary determines how much to give to each state based on a formula that takes into account both the area of the state and its number of licensed hunters.

These States must fulfill certain requirements to use the money apportioned to them. None of the money from their hunting license sales may be used by anyone other than the State’s fish and game department. Plans for what to do with the money must be submitted to and approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Acceptable options include research, surveys, management of wildlife and/or habitat and acquisition or lease of land, among other things. Once a plan has been approved, the state must pay the full cost and is later reimbursed for up to 75% of that cost through P–R funds. The 25% of the cost that the State must pay generally comes from its hunting license sales If, for whatever reason, any of the federal money does not get spent, after two years that money is then reallocated to the Migratory Bird Conservation Act.

In the 1970s, amendments created a 10% tax on handguns and their ammunition and accessories as well as an 11% tax on archery equipment. It was also mandated that half of the money from each of those new taxes must be used to educate and train hunters through the creation and maintenance of hunter safety classes and shooting/target ranges."

"GOA has been fighting the battle to protect our Second Amendment freedoms on many fronts for the past 37 years.   We push for an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and we lobby at the local, state and federal levels.
"GOA has been fighting the battle to protect our Second Amendment freedoms on many fronts for the past 37 years. We push for an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and we lobby at the local, state and federal levels. | Source

So what is the negative aspect of the Act?

According to the Act, arms and ammunition sales contribute to state wildlife agencies. This gives rise to a conflict of interest as these agencies are then under the influence of hunters and pro-hunting lobbies. The issue is complicated by the fact that the majority of people who own guns in this country are not hunters. Hence, it is gun and ammunition purchases that provide the funding, but only a percentage of those purchasers are hunters, yet it is the hunters who impact decision making by the agencies in their favor.

Visitors watching these wolves contribute more to the economy than what the hunters do.
Visitors watching these wolves contribute more to the economy than what the hunters do. | Source

It is us making a difference, not the hunters

Contrary to what hunters believe, it is us, wildlife lovers, ecotourists, national parks visitors, authors, artists, etc. who fund most of the public land in the United States, as taxpayers. It is us who fund the welfare ranchers who graze practically for free on public lands. It is us who fund most of our National Wildlife Refuges, with just 3 percent of land purchases coming from hunters' Duck Stamps.

Hunters would like to add Duck Unlimited and other pro-hunting organizations to the list, but I say that even those numbers are more than offset by conservation organizations like National Conservancy and individual land trusts who have acquired more land combined than the pro-hunting entities have.

Finally, when we add land preservation, volunteer hours and monetary contributions made by by way of donations by non-hunters, it's a huge number that is never cited by the hunters and pro-hunt lobbies.

Visitors at Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park.
Visitors at Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park. | Source

It's time for the rest of us to see through the misconception that hunters are a major party toward conservation.

If a hunter tells you that he or she funds the majority or even all of conservation in this country, explain to them the reality. Let us agree that they also fund conservation efforts, but it is for game animals they can hunt.

Hunters are just 13 million of our population of 300+ million. As a wildlife conservationist, I know my facts. Now that you know them too, don't let a 'hunters are major conservationists' argument fly by you.

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Comments 35 comments

Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 8 months ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Holly Shaw,

I say this because invasive species negatively impact local flora and fauna. If we let invasive species flourish at the cost of local flora and fauna then that would be even more wrong because we would be helping one species survive and flourish at the cost of another species.

On the other hand, there are some species that have been imported but whose presence has not negatively impacted local fauna and flora, such as earthworms in North America. Earthworms have actually made NA soils better.


Holly Shaw 8 months ago

Suhail, you say "I agree with you. The only instances I tend to disagree is if we have to eliminate invasive species from an ecosystem (rats in pacific islands, cats, ferrets, rabbits in New Zealand, etc.), because in this case we will only be rectifying a human error of introducing foreign species in the past."

But why should something that had absolutely nothing to do with the situation have to die as a result of someone else's error? That's like saying you should go to jail if someone commits a crime against you. The ones RESPONSIBLE should be punished, not the innocent.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 8 months ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Hi Holy Shaw,

I agree with you. The only instances I tend to disagree is if we have to eliminate invasive species from an ecosystem (rats in pacific islands, cats, ferrets, rabbits in New Zealand, etc.), because in this case we will only be rectifying a human error of introducing foreign species in the past.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 8 months ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Hi Anna,

I apologize for responding to you with a little delay. I would suggest writing on unnecessary wolf culls in BC and Alberta. I think that will make difference.

Regards,


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 8 months ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Hi CWE,

I agree with you. Thanks for reading this hub and leaving a supportive message.


Holly Shaw profile image

Holly Shaw 8 months ago

I simply don't see how killing things "conserves" them. When man stays out of the equation, the predator/prey cycle ebbs and flows within a harmonious balance. It's only when man intervenes do they suddenly need our "help" to survive. This is nonsense!


Anna 8 months ago

I would love to do this type of research for Canada! Any thoughts?


CWE 8 months ago

Hunters' contentions that they contribute millions of dollars through various taxes and licensing fees are deliberately misleadingk. Taxation and mandated fees are not optional for these folks and this is hardly indicative of a generous spirit.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 10 months ago from Mississauga, ON Author

You are most welcome, Mel.

In my humble opinion, there are ethical hunters who I don't mind at all. It is the pseudo trophy hunters that get away with it that I want to write against.

Btw, I am sorry for responding very late on these comments from you.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 10 months ago from San Diego California

You make a brilliantly articulated argument here. I think I have fallen for the pro gun propaganda that hunters fund conservation. I do not hunt myself, I prefer to hunt birds with binoculars than firearms, but I come from a family of hunters and I do have some sympathy toward their interests. But I never thought they should hunt on wildlife refuges. Thanks for exposing these fallacies to me. Great hub!


Hunter 15 months ago

As a hunter I always thought we are major contributors of wildlife conservation, but your article clearly demonstrates that this may not be true. I will do my own research and see if what you are saying is correct or not. It makes sense though, prima facie.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 23 months ago from Mississauga, ON Author

To an extent that is correct. Ethical hunters do ensure that a healthy population of both prey and predator is maintained for long term consumptive use. My argument is that it doesn't make them the major contributor to wildlife conservation. It is people like you and me who help conserve wildlife directly (e.g. by donations) and indirectly (e.g. by increasing tourism).


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 23 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

A very interesting and thought provoking article. Personally, I never understood how hunting and killing animals can be seen as helping preservation.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

I agree with you Stella. I don't see any fun in hunting animals kept on a range bounded by fences.


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

No special status for hunters and I really hate the game farms here that charge money and are fenced, that is not even hunting. The rich people should call it murdering animals. There is no sport to that calling it hunting. Great Hub. Stella


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Thanks for pointing this out, Deb. How did I miss on that? I had a fairly large collection of those stamps myself.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Very informative work, Suhail. As a stamp collector, I used to buy both Federal and State stamps, so stamps collectors also help.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Thanks for the comments, Cynthia.

Btw, thanks to your comments on another hub, I have found that I should be glad to have run into a family that resembles my own, LOL.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

Great hub, Suhail. I don't understand the drive to hunt and kill sentient beings, so I don't see any possible logical argument for giving hunters special status as "conservationists". You have presented a very strong case for the 94% of non-hunter paying users of parks, etc., to rise up and demand more proportionate support for their various activities and causes. Good work! Voted up, pinned and shared.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

These are exactly my views too, Mary.

I am against trophy hunting, bow hunting, torturing animals like wolves, coyotes, and wild boars prior to killing them, and hunting in such a manner that doesn't give a level playing field to the game animals.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Hi Genna East,

That was a very powerful and saddening story. That is one reason why I am against unethical hunters and against those bow hunting. I have known instances where, just like what happened on your father's farm, unprofessional and characterless hunters left the game (including wolves and coyotes) to die slow agonizing deaths.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Good to see you back The Hunter.

Just be ethical about it and there will be no worries :-)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York

Touchy subject on all sides. Those who are well educated and truly love animals can be responsible hunters but I think they are now in the minority. You make so many good points. I could never hunt but that doesn't mean I hate all hunters. Those "city" folk who come to hunt dear and wind up shooting cows are a perfect example of irresponsible hunters.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Well said! My father used to occasionally hunt years ago on the 45-acres he and Mom owned in the Kittatinny Mountains in NW Jersey – never for trophy or sport, only for venison. He was a stickler about following the rules concerning hunting seasons, etc. He stopped when he perceived that hunting had gotten out of control and the “conservation” arguments which he felt were no longer applicable or true. He loathed poachers, which he experienced quite a bit of on his own land, and those who hunted for sport or trophy. One day, he heard shots on his property and went out to investigate. Some idiot had wounded a doe and left her there to die, slowly. He had to put her out of misery...and never really got over it. Voted up and shared.


The Hunter 2 years ago

Nice article, but conservation or not, I am hunting. That is my only hobby.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Alicia,

Thank for reading the article and leaving an encouraging comment.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Hi Karen,

Thank you for leaving thought provoking comments. Let me take up some points you raised one by one:

1 You are correct that the area in which a person is interested and their personal experience determines where their passion lies regarding this subject. I grew up as a hunter. I left hunting by age 19 when I saw the cruelty inflicted on prey animals using bow. I am still, to this day, not against hunting, but it has to be ethical.

2. I have absolutely no problem with people living off the land. In fact, my favorite arctic adventurer Joe Henderson (writer of the book 'The Malamute Man') lives off the land. However, I also believe that with our population bursting at seams, this style of living is no longer sustainable. It is not the hunters, but the predators that are a must for prey population control.

3. I agree that a proliferating wild hog and deer population can create an ecological havoc. William Stolzenburg in his book 'Where the wild things were' educates us about this aspect in detail.

4. Bears, wolves, coyotes, and wild cats will increase showing up in our urban and sub-urban neighborhoods, because it is here they are finding their meals more often. The trick is not to kill them but maintain a distance so as not to let them habituate to human presence. Wyoming's rancher and writer of a best seller 'Shepherds of the Coyote Rocks' Cat Urbigkit explores this area in her recently published book 'When man becomes the prey'. She advises that wild animals coming into conflicts with humans and not showing fear, rather confrontation, need to be killed so as to remove them from the gene pool.

Thanks again for reading my article and leaving nice comment.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Thank you, Pamela, for your reading the hub and leaving kind words.

The aspects of hunting I am against are (1) hunting by bow, which is infliction of terrible pain on the prey and (2) hunting for trophy. The third kind of hunting I am dead set against is sadistic hunting of prey after torturing it on purpose. Killing wolves and pigs in this manner is are cases in point.The first two kinds are still hunting, but this third kind is definitely sadistic and cruel torture rather than hunting.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an informative and interesting hub, Suhail. Thank you for sharing the information and for publicizing this important topic.


Karen Ray profile image

Karen Ray 2 years ago from Oklahoma

I guess the area in which a person is interested and their personal experience determines where their passion lies regarding this subject.

I grew up in the country and our main source of meat was wild game. The men were all hunters but they didn't waste. Many people who live in my area are avid hunters and they eat what they kill. Hunters are essential to population control. Right now in my area wild hogs are taking over wherever they can get a foothold. Let a deer population get out of control and they can wreak havoc. Think about a bear or a wild cat showing up in your yard. Just a thought, but I'm willing to bet the folks on Duck Dynasty eat their kill. All that aside, I will say your hub is informative and well set up.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 2 years ago from Maui and Arizona

Thank you so much for writing this. It's a subject I can hardly read about without sort of holding my breath.

It's just ridiculous to me that there is any kind of equation rationalizing the killing of birds -- or wolves -- or deer or any animal. The real problem, no doubt, is that the sellers of dead chickens and roosters plus the sellers of dead cattle provide the meat for public consumption and if it were not so, people would hunt and fish for a portion of their diet. Everything is skewed due to this. I know the so-called real world is not going to change in this regard, but I still can't stand it when I read something or other about Ducks Unlimited or when I hear about a show which is a hit called Duck Dynasty. I'm not much of a meat eater -- fish, sometimes.

This hub was very informative and appreciated. Voting up and Sharing and Pinning.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

FlourishAnyway,

Thanks for visiting and for supporting this cause.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON Author

Ni Bill, I think we are not a minority for standing up against sports hunting. We are just not vocal enough and don't have a political clout.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

I am with you on this. We shouldn't be subsidizing this by giving special benefits to these people. What a farce. Shared and voted up +++


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

All great points and I agree. Honestly, I'll never understand why people hunt for sport, but I know I'm in the minority with that viewpoint.

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