Hunters and Their Money Are Fading

By Wallace Kaufman

This is Part I of a three-part article.

Many or most readers will soon strongly, even angrily, disagree with the conclusions of this essay, so let’s begin where we almost certainly agree. Hunters and their organizations have been heroes of wildlife habitat preservation and creation and of wildlife populations saved and restored. With some obvious exceptions, hunters have every right to think of themselves as environmentalists, but not “those environmentalists.”

Hunters plant thousands of acres in wildlife crops. Hunters paying their license fees have supported habitat protection with hundreds of millions of dollars. Long before the environmental movement began, hunters in Ducks Unlimited were doing work that saved more than six million acres of wetlands. Taxes on guns and ammo, along with license fees, now pay 60 percent of the budgets of state wildlife agencies. In Idaho alone, hunting permits contribute almost a half billion dollars to environmental programs. That is not the future. The social, environmental and economic services of hunting are already being replaced.

Three strong trends diminish the importance of hunting as a significant or desirable environmental strategy. Those trends are:

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A Big Factor in Australian Fires

Both California and Australia restrict action by landowners to protect their property.

The Australian fires bring back sad reminders of the California experience. As with American wildfires, an ounce of prevention could have gone a long way to decrease the destruction.

As explained by Kat Dwyer of PERC, in a recent article in The Hill, an Australian law is making matters worse.

Controlled burns, once routinely used by farmers to reduce fuel around their properties, can now result in fines exceeding $500 per tree removed. Indeed, Liam Sheahan, a resident of Strath Creek in central Victoria, was fined $50,000 for clearing trees and shrubs around the perimeter of his home. He spent an additional $50,000 on legal fees defending his decision. After the Black Saturday bushfires devastated his community, Sheahan’s decision was vindicated as his home was the only one to remain standing.

Even the government’s land managers themselves are performing fewer controlled burns. According to Brian Williams, captain of Kurrajong Heights fire brigade, Australia has been burning less than 1 percent of its bushfire-prone land for the past 20 years. Similarly, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services reported that out of 812 hazard-reduction burns that have been planned since 2016, only 439 have been completed.

It is time to reconsider our public lands policy and lower the hurdles that prevent communities from acting to protect their homes and livelihoods. This is as true in the United States as it is in Australia.

The War against Poachers

Anti-poaching action leads to multiple deaths of rangers and poachers alike.

The International Ranger Federation reports that 269 rangers were killed across Africa between 2012 and 2018, the majority of them by poachers….

[R]esearch on organized crime estimates that between 150 and 200 poachers were killed in the Kruger National Park alone [between 2010 and 2015]. In neighboring Botswana, anti-poaching action has reportedly resulted in dozens of deaths, and the country’s controversial “shoot to kill” policy—which gives rangers powers to shoot poachers dead on sight—has drawn allegations of abuse.

From Cathleen O’Grady in the Atlantic.

And more:

South Africa’s most recent rhino-poaching crisis came out of the blue. In 2007, the country lost just 13 rhinos to poaching; the next year, that number jumped to 83, kicking off a nightmarish escalation. Losses peaked at 1,215 in 2014, and deaths are still high: 2018, with 769 rhinos killed, was the first year that losses had dipped under 1,000 since 2013. South Africa is home to 93 percent of Africa’s estimated 20,000 white rhinos and 39 percent of the remaining 5,000 critically endangered black rhinos, making South Africa’s rhino crisis a global rhino crisis.

We’ve Just Had the Best Decade in History

We are using less energy. We are using less land. Forests and wildlife are on the upswing.

 

Matt Ridley writes:

Extreme poverty has fallen below 10 percent of the world’s population for the first time. It was 60 percent when I was born. Global inequality has been plunging as Africa and Asia experience faster economic growth than Europe and North America; child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline.

And here is the environmental good news: We are using less stuff:

The quantity of all resources consumed per person in Britain (domestic extraction of biomass, metals, minerals and fossil fuels, plus imports minus exports) fell by a third between 2000 and 2017, from 13.7 tons to 9.4 tons. That’s a faster decline than the increase in the number of people, so it means fewer resources consumed overall.

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We are using less energy:

John Constable of the Global Warming Policy Forum points out that although the UK’s economy has almost trebled in size since 1970, and our population is up by 20 percent, total primary inland energy consumption has actually fallen by almost 10 percent.

We are using less land:

In 2012, Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University and his colleagues argued that, thanks to modern technology, we use 65 percent less land to produce a given quantity of food compared with 50 years ago. By 2050, it’s estimated that an area the size of India will have been released from the plough and the cow.

Forests and wild life are on the upswing:

In 2006 Ausubel worked out that no reasonably wealthy country had a falling stock of forest, in terms of both tree density and acreage. Large animals are returning in abundance in rich countries; populations of wolves, deer, beavers, lynx, seals, sea eagles and bald eagles are all increasing; and now even tiger numbers are slowly climbing.

Lessons:

A modern irony is that many green policies advocated now would actually reverse the trend towards using less stuff.