Most people don’t realize the interconnectedness of hunting and conservation. With politics and media today, it seems that you have a division between hunters and conservationists. Because of this schism there is a need to explain how connected the two actually are
Zac Venchus was the perfect person to talk to about this subject. Zac is an avid hunter but is also doing some great work in the field of conservation. Zac works as a program specialist for a private habitat organization in Iowa. He is the boots on the ground when it comes to the conservation of habitat for a variety of game species. I spoke with Zac about some of the things that he does to support conservationism as a hunter.
Zac explained some of the day to day operations he conducts at his management site,
“The day to day operations for a program specialist vary from season to season, with the focuses during all seasons being prairie restoration and maintaining wetland health"
He listed some of the duties that he conducts to carry out these focuses:
Spring: prescribed burning, food plot planting, habitat preparation
Summer: mowing, habitat preparation, planting
Fall: banding ducks, wetland manipulation (diverting water from a local river using dikes and stop logs and flood wetlands early or late based on vegetation, food plot harvest growth and duck populations.), planting for early season growth
Winter: Draining wetlands after duck hunting season, Chronic wasting disease sampling of deer populations
The work being done provides habitat for wildlife and hunting opportunities.
Zac stated, “Our work is targeting game species with the angle of also helping other species”
Habitat management tactics such as Prescription burns, wetland manipulation, and native species planting benefits many species well beyond the pheasant habitat they are targeting. Many animals such as white tail deer, waterfowl, and even wood turtles are gaining expanded territory through this work.
I asked Zac how hunting and conservation go hand in hand, he made a point that one of the biggest ways that hunting aides in conservation is through funding.
“The federal government does a great job through the Pittman Robertson act giving money to natural resource conservation efforts.”
He described some other places that funding can come from in regard to conservation, particular in migratory waterfowl which is Zac’s area of expertise.
“As far as hunters are concerned things like the federal duck stamp are awesome. There is really nothing else where 98 cents of every dollar go into habitat protection. Hunters put in the most money for conservation. Duck populations are currently at an all-time high, to keep those populations high the best thing that you can do is to continue to hunt ducks. This keeps putting money into the system for research and conservation.”
For those that don’t know what the Pittman Robertson act is. The Pittman-Robertson act was enacted in 1937 and established a manufacturers' tax on firearms and ammunition to generate revenue for wildlife conservation. The funds created by this act are collected by the federal government and distributed to the states, more than 80 percent of the funding for budgets of state fish and wildlife agencies are from hunting and fishing license fees and Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson dollars. Without these revenues, most states would be unable to maintain programs that sustain healthy populations of fish and wildlife. They would also be unable to meet public demand for outdoor recreation. This act has been amended a numerous time each time allowing for greater allocation of funds toward conservation and recreation.
It is also true that hunters are the largest monetary contributors to conservation. In 2016 there was over 1 billion dollars shelled out to states for fish and wildlife conservation from this act alone. This is not to say that hunters are better at conservation or more entitled to any land that they may use. This just shows that hunters may not be deserving of the reputation that they sometimes receive for being anti-conservation.
For those that do not participate in hunting there are many things that can be done to to aide in conservation. As explained previously buying any products that would fall under the Pittman-Robertson act will put money towards conservation, many products under this act are used for many activities outside of hunting, so have probably bought an item in this provision and not even known it.
Zac went through some of the things that people can do outside hunting to aide in conservation efforts.
“Go use the land. If you are using the land that is being provided to you, you’re appreciating it.”, said Zac
Using the land is huge. Many agencies both government and private closely monitor land usage. The statistics are used and funds are assigned accordingly. So, an area that isn’t high use will likely not be getting that updated bridge or added restroom near the trail head.
“Resources are allocated based off what people are doing. If there are a lot of hikers we might build new trails, if there are a lot of bird watchers we might put in a new viewing deck . We will cater to people doing certain types of activities.”
Some people are not able to always get out and use the lands that they love but are still passionate about protecting it. So for those that may not have the time to give, Zac gave some of his recommendations for places you donate your money.
“Delta waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, and Pheasants Forever all conduct a lot of conservation research so those are all a good choice. These companies may focus on specific species, but the work that they do helps all species. I would also recommend buying a federal duck stamp, they’re great just to collect, the money helps acquire habitat that also helps a lot more species than ducks”
As you can tell the reoccurring theme here is protecting habitat and that’s something that both hunters and anti-hunters can agree on. Hunters are on the forefront of this push to keep lands public and keep wildlife habitat in its best condition.
ranger, writer, reckless