Last Thursday, I received a news release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) celebrating the fact the peregrine falcon was delisted as an endangered species in that state. As a hunter and wildlife enthusiast, I was pleased to hear the news and settled in to read the particulars.
However, after reading the article, I was dismayed to find when it came to the thanking part, only “wildlife managers and individuals” were recognized for their efforts. No specific mention of the role hunters, and target shooters for that matter, have played to help fund conservation efforts through hunting license sales and the excise taxes they pay on firearms and ammunition.
Known as the Pittman-Robertson Act when it was enacted in 1938, it was designed to fund wildlife conservation at a time this country’s wildlife populations were in danger of disappearing forever. In was an excise tax sportsmen and women not only tolerated, they requested it. Today called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, it is considered a user-pay, user-benefit program. However, the notion of user benefit is a misnomer because everyone, whether you’re a hiker, paddler or wildlife watcher, benefits from the funding provided by sportsmen and women on behalf of wildlife.
In the conservation community, the rallying cry has been we’ve got to tell our fellow Americans that it’s hunters who helped restore America’s wildlife, and they continue those conservation efforts today. So, I was concerned when I saw a news release touting a restoration success story but not mentioning how hunters and target shooters contributed. So I immediately emailed Patricia Behnke, who sent me the press release, to ask her why this was so. After all, it was a great opportunity to preach beyond the choir because news such as this was likely to get picked up by the mainstream media.
A couple hours later she responded:
“I received your question about the individuals who helped with the conservation of the peregrine. The key players were conservation organizations and especially falconers who assisted in the rearing and release of captive bred peregrines. I hope that helps clarify.”
Well, it helped a little. If falconers were involved, then sportsmen did assist with the effort as falconers are after all, hunters and as such, must purchase a permit. But it still didn’t answer my question. So, I wrote her back to inquire whether or not the agency, which is partially funded by hunters, had any role in the peregrine’s recovery other than issuing the press release. I also left a voicemail after becoming curious about what percentage of the agency is supported by hunting license and Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration dollars and how the FWC’s peregrine falcon management plan leader is funded.
After not hearing back Thursday or Friday, I called the agency’s media relations senior editor on Monday who explained a three-day commission meeting had preoccupied the media staff. Fair enough. I understand the challenges of a big meeting like that. So I resubmitted my question. As of Tuesday at 5 p.m., I still had not received any additional information.
While I don’t think the agency omitted the role of sportsmen and women on purpose, the end result is the same - a possible missed opportunity to tell those who don’t hunt about how we have footed the bill to restore populations of white-tailed deer, elk, antelope, wood ducks, wild turkeys and even “non game” critters such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
In all fairness, I am sure the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is not the only agency to have neglected to recognize hunters and target shooters in their press releases. And there may be more to it than that. It could be peregrine restoration is handled from an earmarked source of funds unrelated to license or Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration monies. If that’s the case, I hope to receive more information. However, when possible, I hope agencies, conservation organizations and outdoor communicators take every opportunity to make it known how sportsmen and women helped save wildlife.
To read the release yourself, visit: