Will the Anti-Hunters Pay for Their Pleasure?

By Wallace Kaufman

This is Part III of a three-part article. Part I is here; Part II is here.

The anti-hunters, of course, have yet to put significant money in play. More wildlife and wildlife habitat have been preserved and restored by hunters than by anti-hunting environmentalists. (Environmentalists tend to focus on nearly extinct species and on unusual specimens—elephants, rhinos, hippos, grizzlies, the albinos, and the big predators at the top of the food chain.)

Environmentalists concentrate on persuading governments to spend money to preserve and expand habitat and control poaching. Non-profit conservancies and land trusts, however, have made important acquisitions and are expanding their efforts. One of the oldest conservancies, the Nature Conservancy, has by itself preserved over 100 million acres and has over 1 million contributing members.

The alternatives to hunting are multiplying rapidly along with their enthusiasts and the funds they provide. I have hunted with a gun, but digital photography has radically reduced the cost of shooting with a camera. I go hunting every day without a license. I shoot with my camera. That requires as much, or more knowledge and skill than bow or gun hunting. The birds, deer, bear, elk, and other wildlife don’t know I’ve shot them, and I can shoot the same ones as many times as I like. Other photographers can continue to shoot them and amateur naturalists to watch them. Continue reading “Will the Anti-Hunters Pay for Their Pleasure?”

Hunters’ Last-Ditch Defenses

By Wallace Kaufman

This is the second part of a three-part article. For Part I see Hunters and Their Money Are Fading.

How much hunters cherish killing is demonstrated by their own boasts of how much they spend on the pleasure. Pleasure is the operative word since I’ve heard no claims of charitable expenses in the pursuit of duty. The fact that trophy hunters and many others can’t convincingly explain why they spend so much and take so much pleasure in killing innocent animals does not suggest that they are bad or cruel or inhumane, only that the behavior has roots in the evolution of predators and humans in particular. Those who rationalize killing wildlife as an economic and humane means of preservation have begun to hide that deeper truth of human nature in socially acceptable language.

Peter Flack, a South African hunter and well-reasoned defender of trophy and sport hunting, nevertheless feels obliged to cover up. “The fastest growing segment of hunters in North America, which has some 13.4 million hunters growing at 3.4 percent per annum, are young women and urban men in their late twenties and early thirties like Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, who want to take responsibility for the protein their families eat.”[1] It’s not the protein they are after but a fictional avatar.

Continue reading “Hunters’ Last-Ditch Defenses”

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:

Continue reading “Hunters and Their Money Are Fading”

Protecting Our Natural Surroundings

“I divide environmental topics into two sometimes overlapping groups, ‘romance’ and ‘sludge.’ The romance sector includes parks, forests, wildlands, wilderness, wildlife, and scenic vistas.”

By John Baden

I divide environmental topics into two sometimes overlapping groups, “romance” and “sludge.” The romance sector includes parks, forests, wildlands, wilderness, wildlife, and scenic vistas. These treasures grace calendars and coffee table books. Most educated and comfortable adults, even committed urbanites, are attracted to and want to protect this sector.

The second division is sludge. This term refers to nasty stuff that is often the necessary byproduct of legitimate productive activities such as food processing, mining, and manufacturing. These are spillovers from legitimate and useful activities.Economists call this category negative externalities. They ask: How might we efficiently reduce them—or even better, convert them into useful products?

That’s exactly what environmental entrepreneurs did when they converted the wood waste and scrap from lumber mills into valuable wood panels. Those panels replaced plywood—which had replaced boards formerly cut from old growth trees. Lesson here? In a market process economy, superior substitutes naturally evolve.

We can’t live without some sludge; it’s inherent in living and using products from the earth. While recognizing this, I choose to work in the romance arena. Had I elected to focus on sludge, I’d live in Boston and study its harbor. Instead, I live on a ranch between Bozeman and Yellowstone Park and study my surrounding habitat. Thus, I work in the tradition of America’s first conservationists.

America’s old-line conservation organizations were primarily concerned with the romance sector of their environment, largely with protecting wildlife. A common target was market hunters, people who overexploited the wildlife commons. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws, was among the National Audubon Society’s first major victories.

The 1857 book Wild Northern Scenes; Sporting Adventures with the Rifle and the Rod is an example of the connection between outdoor recreation and preservation of environmental romance. In this book, S.H. Hammond writes: “We are here alone with nature, surrounded by old primeval things. Tall forest trees, mountain and valley are on the right hand and on the left. Before us, stretching away for miles, is a beautiful lake, its waters calm and placid, giving back the bright heavens, the old woods, the fleecy clouds that drift across the sky, from away down in its quiet depths.”

My columns and posts build on a lifelong interest in conservation. It began by creating the Concord Conservation Club while in the fifth grade of the small, high-quality and quite rural Concord School  in Miami County, Ohio.

Our club focused on wildlife, both fish and game. For example, I recall Field and Stream articles on the importance of fence rows in providing habitat. In those years family farms fields were small by today’s standards; forty acres was a large one. Most farms were fenced to keep farm animals, mainly beef and dairy cows and flocks of sheep, in for grazing. Various types of grasses and small bushes grew on both sides of each fence. I learned that fence rows provided good habitat for small animals nesting, hiding from predators, and gaining protection from weather. I maintained  my interest through high school and college and expressed it through hunting and fishing.

My columns with the Goodman Institute will be written while enjoying life in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. My goal is to explain how responsible liberty, sustainable ecology, and modest prosperity can complement one another while fostering wholesome communities. Communities flourish within this trinity. Eliminate any one and life becomes problematic, unpleasant over the long term—even unsafe.

Of the three elements of this trinity, modest prosperity is often underrated. Especially by Greens with a “woke” philosophy. Socialists and other authoritarians fail to understand the linkages among liberty, prosperity, and sustainable ecological systems.

They see economics as a subset of engineering rather than of evolutionary biology. Hence, they believe that prosperity can be designed and administered by the governmental bureaucracies via regulations and directives. This command approach never has and never will succeed. Why?

Bureaucratic knowledge is incomplete, and errors are common. Further, incentives often yield perverse outcomes. For example, federal programs to subsidize draining prairie potholes, America’s “duck factories,” destroy habitat for migratory water fowl and terrestrial wildlife dependent on pools of water. Reclamation irrigation dams destroy salmon runs. Here as elsewhere, political forces trump ecology and economics.

Prosperity, as contrasted to windfall gains from winning a lottery or finding gold, evolves as individuals discover ways to move resources to higher value. I will be discussing that in the future with the example I know best, our ranch.

John A. Baden is founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), located in Bozeman, Montana.