CDFW concern about loss of income from hunting licenses
The popularity of hunting is waning. Fewer hunters are a great CDFW concern because many environmental programs and habitat improvements are financed by the sales of hunting licenses.
Fewer hunters and fishermen mean reduced income which, in turn, results in smaller numbers of hunting, fishing, and general outdoor related programs. During the last decade, the number of active hunters and hunting licenses issued to them has steadily declined. The California Hunting Post reported on this disturbing trend just recently.
This downward trend in the popularity of our hobby is not only disturbing to active and engaged hunters but a great CDFW concern that now has reached the upper levels of the management of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
Nationwide decline in hunter numbers
The department is gravely concerned about the flagging interest of Californians in fishing, hunting, and the great outdoors in general. They are primarily motivated by the significant reduction in income from hunting, fishing, and recreational activities.
License sales to California hunters over the last decade:
On average, 12.5 million people spend an estimated 220 million days in the forests, wetlands, on the ocean and beaches, and in the fields. Hunters, for example, spend an average of $ 1, 992 per year on their hobby and related purchases of equipment, fees, and other necessities they just must have to stay on top of their game. In the process, they add almost 25 billion dollars to the economy.
Fishing is experiencing a similar drop in popularity though it is not quite is severe yet as the reduction on income from hunting.
On the other hand, outdoor lovers are engaging more in hiking, camping, wildlife photography and related activities than before. Hunting and fishing down, hiking, camping, and photography up, that’s the trend.
These guys outnumber hunters by far
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has examined this disturbing development and decided to take decisive action. CDFW is actively seeking cooperation with hunting and fishing organizations and groups, state and federal interested parties and other stakeholders to identify and eliminate barriers to hunting and fishing opportunities in California.
In the true style of a government agency, the Department has formed an executive-level task force under the directions of a full-time coordinator, hired research scientists, and formulated a statewide “recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) plan”. Moreover, a staff-level special working group is cooperating with interested parties in hunting and fishing organizations to reduce barriers to hunting and fishing and to increase access opportunities and the ease of access.
Better yet, the task force will look at barriers to access for fishing and hunting, the structure of fees for hunting and fishing licenses, and work on improving the perception of hunting and fishing by the general public.
The latter is in my humble opinion one of the most important aspects of this planned overhaul of how hunting and fishing are treated by government agencies and the opponents of hunting and fishing.
Anti-hunting groups have been able for too long to shape the public perception of hunting and fishing in a negative sense unopposed. It is an extremely powerful point that no hunter or fisherman should take lightly. And the anti-hunters have the numbers of fanatical critics of hunting worldwide to add considerable weight to anything they say, regardless of how self-serving and one-sided it might be. Some hunters, on the other hand, contribute to this negative perception of hunting in the eyes of the general public by how they present themselves and their hobby and by publicizing the worst extremes of hunting.
Trophy hunters are without a doubt the worst offenders in that department. It does not sit well with the average outdoor lover to be pictorially exposed to highly offensive hunting practices. Never mind that only a minority of all hunters engages in this ego-driven, senseless type of “hunting”. But the damage to hunting is done anyway.
National Geographic picture of trophy hunters (let’s see what Google has to say to National Geographic)
They also derive much of their power from the anti-gun ideology which is, I am sorry to have to say, fueled immensely by the backlash against recurring senseless shootings. It does not help that more and more hunters follow the trend to military-style ‘hunting’ rifles. But an AR-15 is really not the best of all hunting firearms.
But let us not forget overall this doomsday talk that hunting, fishing, and other outdoor related activities come with outstanding benefits. Many hunters will not readily admit it but a surprising number of them use hunting as a reason to dress up as a Rambo and spend some adventurous time in the wilderness. Getting some delicious food in the process is only an added benefit.
Observation and research have shown clearly that outdoor activities contribute sizably to physical, mental and social well-being. Hunters, fishermen, and outdoor lovers often use these activities to spend some quality and memorable time with friends and family. Food from hunting or fishing is a welcome bonus, of course.
The majority of the CDFW income comes from hunters and fishermen and their licenses. These two groups also were among the very first defenders of the environment and natural resources. And they are still doing their best to protect California’s wide variety of hunting and fishing opportunities. As such, they assist in regulating wildlife populations, help to protect ecological and biological diversity, and participate in wildlife surveys for scientific data collection. Last but not least, they are often instrumental in reporting wildlife crimes and environmental destruction as we can see in many of the numerous articles the California Hunting Post has published in the past.
Let us make sure that this will not change in the future. We need hunters, fishermen, and outdoor lovers to treasure, protect, and use reasonably California’s astounding variety of habitats and wildlife.
How could it be otherwise? We also need income from hunting and fishing to protect and maintain our magnificent environment. That income, I have to say, comes to a far lesser degree from our friends of the camping, hiking, and sightseeing variety. They pay very little compared to what an average hunter or fisherman has to spend on his hobby.
Is that a reason to throw up your hands, moan and whine about anti-hunting forces, campground users who pay little, and the few bad apples in the hunting and fishing communities?
No it is not. On the contrary, all hunters, fishermen, and outdoor lovers should support CDFW to the best of their abilities in order to preserve and improve our unparalleled outdoor opportunities for our children and for our grandchildren.
I challenge you to work with CDFW and their partners on reasonable and practicable improvements that make hunting, fishing, and access to the great outdoors easier. Your hunting and fishing dollars are well spent on a good cause. Just think of the benefits of the wildly successful SHARE program that CDFW is operating for years now.
And if you find it hard to spend money, contribute your time and experience to the goal of CDFW to restore, maintain, and improve the outdoor experience of all Californians regardless of their favorite activity. Do not let the quite rare negative encounter with a CDFW agent who has a bad hair day and lets it out on you spoil a good cause.
Be generous, give him some leeway and let our invasive eating machines, wild pigs, thrives in a carefully controlled environment. How is that for magnanimity?
If you want to share the idea of the century with CDFW, get in touch with them by writing to Jennifer.Benedet@wildlife.ca.gov.