It’s an idea that been kicking around for years – getting folks who use the outdoors but do not hunt, fish or trap to help pay the way.
It periodically has shown signs of life and then inevitably has faded into the woodwork, denned up in political hibernation. Maybe it will be different this time.
Last month, what was billed as a “Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources” was announced. Its named goal is to focus on and remedy the need for fish and wildlife diversity funding.
Fully two dozen leaders “from the outdoor recreation, energy, agricultural, automotive, financial, educational, and conservation communities” are gathering over the next year to discuss and offer recommendations on how to achieve greater and sustained funding for fish and wildlife conservation.
The organizational names on the panel read like a Who’s Who in the outdoors, from Bass Pro Shops, Toyota, The Nature Conservancy, National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Pure Fishing, Inc., to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation. And many more.
This movement, however erratic its trajectory, was launched in the 1990s when the Teaming With Wildlife Coalition – remember it, a brainchild of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies? – called for dedicated funding for state fish and wildlife diversity funding. Indeed. Many of us conservationists jumped on board with Teaming, urging that those who carry binoculars and backpacks afield instead of rods and guns ought to help shoulder the burden of conserving the great outdoors we share. Maybe even those who tote no more than picnic baskets and beach balls and sixpacks ought to help out, too.
This time around, the retreaded theme is to build what is billed as “a 21st century funding model."
If you are reading this blog, you likely know the historic chapter and verse: State hunting and fishing license dollars, federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear, and motorboat fuel taxes have provided the backbone for funding states' fish and wildlife conservation programs over the past century.
But a significant deficit in dedicated funding for conserving the 95 percent of all species that are neither hunted nor fished, however, has been the rule. For instance, only partially offsetting the deficit is a little known State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, the sole federal source of funding to state agencies to prevent new endangered species listings. That and whatever tangential benefits may accrue from existing fish and wildlife [read: hunting and fishing] programs.
But since 2010, the tribal grants program funding has been cut by more than 35 percent while petitions for federal endangered species listing alone has skyrocketed by 1,000 percent. It is a familiar story that, it is hoped this time, will have a different and successful ending.
To find out more about the Blue Ribbon Panel and the need to create a 21st century model of fish and wildlife diversity funding go to http://teaming.com/blueribbonpanel or contact Mary Pfaffko, firstname.lastname@example.org. I wish them well, very well.