Hunters and Environmentalists Find a Common Cause in Conservation

December 29, 2007 12:02 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As the Bush administration’s energy policies expand oil and gas drilling on public lands, a surprising coalition of environmentalists and traditionally Republican sportsmen works for conservation.

30-Second Summary

Over the past five years White House energy policies have accelerated the development of oil and gas wells in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming.

These drilling projects are galvanizing conservationists from across the political spectrum, eroding GOP primacy in what have been consistently red-leaning areas of the West.

“I'm a registered Republican, but last year I voted a straight Democratic ticket. First time in my life ... The Republicans have kind of lost touch with reality,” Bob Elderkin, the 68 year-old head of Rifle, Colorado’s Mule Deer Association, told The Washington Post.

Although their alliance with environmentalists may seem counterintuitive, the country’s 12.5 million hunters are fundamental to the management of U.S. wildlife.

Each year, federal excise taxes on guns, ammunition and other equipment provides state wildlife management programs with nearly $200 million in funding. And since 1934, hunters have paid more than $700 million for Federal Duck Stamps (a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunters), money that has added 5.2 million acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

In fact, the NWRS was created by notable hunter, and founder of America’s conservation movement, President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt also expanded the national forest system by 151 million acres while in office.

According to National Geographic writer Bob Poole, this tradition of conservation could forge an alliance between hunters and environmentalists on a number of broader issues. That is, if the two groups “could overcome their suspicions of one another."

Headline Links: The politics, and declining number, of hunters

Background: Drilling projects in the West and NRA members resist Bush

NRA pressured to resist Bush energy policies

Historical Context: Hunters and early conservationists

Opinion & Analysis: Why do hunters clash with environmentalists?

Related Topic: Hunters concerned about global warming

According to a 2006 survey conducted by the National Wildlife Federation, the majority of hunters and anglers think the United States is not effectively dealing with climate change. Out of 1,031 licensed hunters and anglers polled, 73 percent think global warming is impacting or will impact hunting and fishing conditions, and 78 percent said addressing the problem should involve energy conservation, the development of more fuel-efficient cars, and an increase in the use of renewable resources.

Reference Material: Hunting numbers

According to a 2006 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, over 87 million U.S. residents age 16 and older fished, hunted, or watched wildlife that year. During that year, 29.9 million people fished, 12.5 million hunted, and 71.1 million participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity, including observing, feeding, or photographing wildlife.

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