In elementary school, my teacher taught us a lesson about the history of the American West. I don’t remember many of my lessons from those days, but I do recall that one because the teacher told us that the vast herds of American bison, once the largest herds of wild game in the world, had been wiped out by hunters. I was shocked. Having grown up in a family of hunters, I felt a sense of guilt when the teacher showed us a picture of fields of dead buffalo rotting in the sun, their skins removed by the “hunters” who had laid waste to the herd.
The wholesale slaughter of an entire species in the name of profit cannot be associated with legal, regulated hunting, a lesson I would learn later in life. Market killing was responsible for eradication of the American bison, but cattle ranching was also to blame. Farming also played a major role, and today suburban lawns with short-cropped grass and mulched flower beds cover ground where bison once roamed. Plainly, market hunters were part of the problem, but not all of the problem.
Now well past my grade school years, I’ve learned that regulated hunting is one of the greatest tools for wildlife conservation. In 2011, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service released a report on the impact that hunting has on the economy. Here are some highlights as well as valuable information from other reports:
-There are about 13.7 million hunters over the age of 16
-Hunting generates 34 billion dollars for the US economy, and a sizable portion of that revenue goes toward protecting wildlife and habitat.
-The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 (which was sponsored by hunters), an excise tax on sporting goods, has generated over 6 billion dollars for wildlife conservation
– Hunters donated 2.9 million pounds of venison to charities and homeless shelters in 2009
– The average hunter spends almost $2,500 a year on tags, travel, equipment, clothing and supplies
– The American conservation model has been copied by several other countries
– A group of hunters headed by Theodore Roosevelt helped push through legislation that established the national park system
– Hunting is one of the safest sports. You’re more likely to get injured or killed roller skating, playing volleyball, softball, or jogging than hunting
– Hunter-funded conservation initiatitives have helped the wild turkey, bison, pronghorn antelope, and other species increase greatly in number over the past five decades.
The truth is that hunters are a force for conservation, and regulated sport hunting has proven to be one of the most effective tools for protecting and preserving wildlife.