While it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions following a school shooting it’s important to remember the impact rash decisions have on generations to come. Taking away gun rights isn’t a viable solution, because criminals are the last people to abide by laws, but the result of pushing this anti-gun narrative has already begun to impact the environment.
Even in areas where new gun regulations have not been applied, the younger generation is shying away from the time-honored tradition of hunting. The growing stigma of owning a gun can be contributed as a root cause of this new trend.
Let’s look at the ‘big picture’ for a second. Gun sales, as well as hunting, are a primary source of funding for conservational efforts for both wildlife and forestries. With a sharp decline in both sales and hunting, conservation efforts have reached a crisis level. Especially now, as the baby boomers attempt to ‘pass the torch’ to a generation afraid to even utter the words ‘semi-automatic’.
Wildlife-centered activities, like birdwatching, hiking and photography, are rapidly growing, as American society and attitudes towards wildlife change.
The shift is being welcomed by some who morally oppose the sport, but it’s also leading to a crisis.
State wildlife agencies and the country’s wildlife conservation system are heavily dependent on sportsmen for funding. Money generated from license fees and excise taxes on guns, ammunition and angling equipment provide about 60 percent of the funding for state wildlife agencies, which manage most of the wildlife in the U.S.
This user-play, user-pay funding system for wildlife conservation has been lauded and emulated around the world. It has been incredibly successful at restoring the populations of North American game animals, some of which were once hunted nearly to extinction.
But with the slide in hunting participation expected to speed up in the next 10 years, widening funding shortfalls that already exist, there’s a growing sense of urgency in the wildlife conservation community to broaden that funding base. Congress is looking at tapping oil and gas revenues. Some states are adding general sales taxes, while others are looking for ways to tweak the user-play, user-pay model to better represent how today’s society interacts with wildlife, monetizing activities like wildlife-viewing.
Those efforts are running into a larger question: Is the greater public willing to pay more to protect wildlife?
“Conservationists need to be looking at what is the next step to keep our conservation programs and places strong and healthy,” says Mary Jean Huston, director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “Things need to evolve.”