If one takes the time to look around the country and investigates the myriad of wildlife and fisheries management controversies in all states, one should get deeply concerned. To the casual and uninformed the heated debates appear to be nothing more than business as usual. Wildlife resource management always was and always will be, controversial.
However, close examination reveals we may have actually transcended a new era. You've read the stories. Ban all trapping in Maine and Minnesota because of a possible incidental take of an endangered Canada lynx. Ban all bear hunting in New Jersey because the Governor hates hunting. Ban all bear hunting in Florida because Florida bear are a newly discovered subspecies. Stop all trout stocking in California because trout are predators and they may impact the frog population. Poison out rainbow and brown trout because they are invasive species. Kill the deer in New York , Pennsylvania , Ohio , West Virginia , Michigan , Wisconsin and Missouri because they are destroying forest regeneration. (I may have missed a few states) State and federal experts are always on hand to tell us predators have no impact on wildlife populations. Really?
The national press and their continuous condemnation of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska for culling their wolves fill in the news doldrums. In New York coyote season actually closes so coyotes can give birth and raise their young. Huh?
Out West as in Alaska and Canada , it is the wolf programs that are destroying our wildlife, our hunting and our ranching industry. Those western state wildlife agencies supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (or maybe controlled would be a better word) argue vehemently (except Wyoming ) that wolves are beneficial as elk, deer, wild sheep, livestock and pet dogs and cats rapidly disappear. These are just a few examples of the madness; I could go on and on.
Behind each of these stories and controversies we hear voices proclaiming that we must follow the path of science and science says we must go down this road. It is extremely difficult for some not to conclude that all of this is really theWildlands Project unfolding right before our eyes. Others have said war has been declared on our rural residents and their way of life. And still others conclude the origins of these agendas are the International Association of Game and Fish Agencies and even the United Nations. That conclusion will have eyes rolling and you will be branded a conspiracy theorist for certain
In reality the origins of the anti-hunting and anti-fishing agendas over the past ten years really don't matter. They are real and they are happening. What is new is our state wildlife agencies are running out of money. Their programs have decimated sportsmen retention and recruitment. The traditional "customer" of these state agencies is realizing hunted species and his and her voices have been completely removed from table and the environmental voice has usurped their interests. In desperation the state agencies have appealed to their legislators for general tax fund financing, which has fallen on totally deaf ears. Legislators don't want wildlife management as another line item within state budgets subject to economic down-turns and stimulus packages.
On the upside all the nonsense may be drawing to a conclusion. State wildlife agencies are now being forced to make a choice. They can rebuild their bridges with our sporting community or they can bank on the environmentalists getting them general tax fund revenue. Our national economic crisis will probably force the agencies to see the light, sooner rather than later.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but wildlife management as we once knew it is dead. We are currently in an era of total political management. It is not about science, it is about politics.
The truth is politics now controls the science. Yours truly has hosted and produced one thousand radio interviews in the last thirteen years. I believe I have a handle on this one. Ironically, after one hundred years of financing the total recovery of our game and nongame species across this nation, our sportsmen are being pushed aside as an insignificant voice in the discussion of management. So, the next time you go to battle with your state agency over a management issue, don't waste your time arguing science.
Wildlife management across this country has evolved into anything, but science.
Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the "Outdoor Talk Network", a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com