Hunting is ConservationIt's that simple
Man has hunted since he walked the Earth. Every early culture relied on hunting for survival. Through hunting, man forged a connection with the land and learned quickly that stewardship of the land went hand-in-hand with maintaining wildlife – and their own way of life.
A brief history of conservation
In the first half of the 20th century, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold shaped a set of ideals that came to be known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They articulated the philosophy that all wildlife belong to all of us. That every citizen is entitled to the opportunity to hunt and fish. And that ethical, regulated hunting is the driving force that maintains abundant wildlife.
Hunting became regulated and guided by scientific research. In 1878, Iowa instituted the first bag limit on birds. Lawmakers passed the Lacey Act in 1900, prohibiting market hunting. Ding Darling created artwork for the first Duck Stamp in 1934. The Pittman-Robertson act was passed in 1937, through which hunters voluntarily imposed a tax on themselves, ensuring that a portion of the sale of all firearms and ammunition would be expressly dedicated to managing the wildlife entrusted to the public.
The Pittman-Robertson Act generates $700 million annually, which is distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state fish and game agencies across America.
Simply put, the United States has the most successful wildlife management system in the world. Hunters and anglers have contributed more financial and physical support to that system than any other group of individuals.
RMEF members and all of you, who contribute to conservation organizations like the RMEF, are proving every day that hunters truly are the titans of conservation.
25 Reasons Why Hunting Is Conservation
- Reason No. 1 why Hunting Is Conservation: In 1907, only 41,000 elk remained in North America. Thanks to the money and hard work invested by hunters to restore and conserve habitat, today there are more than 1 million.
- Reason No. 2 why Hunting Is Conservation: In 1900, only 500,000 whitetails remained. Thanks to conservation work spearheaded by hunters, today there are more than 30 million.
- Reason No. 3 why Hunting Is Conservation: In 1900, only 100,000 wild turkeys remained. Thanks to hunters, today there are more than 6 million.
- Reason No. 4 why Hunting Is Conservation: In 1901, few ducks remained. Thanks to hunters’ efforts to restore and conserve wetlands, today there are more than 40 million.
- Reason No. 5 why Hunting Is Conservation: In the 1920s, only 13,000 pronghorn antelope remained. Thanks to hunters, today there are more than 1.1 million.
- Reason No. 6 why Hunting Is Conservation: Habitat, research and wildlife law enforcement work, all paid for by hunters, help countless non-hunted species.
- Reason No. 7 why Hunting Is Conservation: Through state licenses and fees, hunters pay $896 million a year for conservation programs.*
- Reason No. 8 why Hunting Is Conservation: Through donations to groups like RMEF, hunters add $440 million a year to conservation efforts.*
- Reason No. 9 why Hunting Is Conservation: In 1937, hunters requested an 11% tax on guns, ammo, bows and arrows to help fund conservation. That tax, so far, raised more than $14.1 billion to date & $679 million in 2020 alone.
- Reason No. 10 why Hunting Is Conservation: All together, hunters pay more than $1.6 billion a year for conservation programs. No one gives more!*
- Reason No. 11 why Hunting Is Conservation: Hunters generate funding for scientific wildlife research. In 2020 alone, RMEF granted nearly $1 million to assist with 33 elk research projects/studies in 15 states plus two others with national implications.
- Reason No. 12 why Hunting Is Conservation: Four out of five Americans approve of hunting, partly because hunters are America’s greatest positive force for conservation.
- Reason No. 13 why Hunting Is Conservation: Every single day U.S. sportsmen and women contribute $8.1 million to conservation.
- Reason No. 14 why Hunting Is Conservation: Hunters Boost the economy by $55.4 billion annually. Hunters, anglers and recreational shooters combine to spend $93.7 billion annually.
- Reason No. 15 why Hunting Is Conservation: Hunting supports 854,000 jobs, from game wardens to waitresses, biologists to motel clerks.
- Reason No. 16 why Hunting Is Conservation: Female participation in hunting (3.92 million) is on the rise thanks to a 59% increase from 2010 to 2019.*
- Reason No. 17 why Hunting Is Conservation: More people hunt (18.1 million) each year than play golf (17.9 million), soccer (14.2 million), tennis (12.2 million) or baseball (12.2 million).*
- Reason No. 18 why Hunting Is Conservation: A wildlife management tool, hunting helps balance wildlife populations with what the land can support, limits crop damage and assists with disease management.
- Reason No. 19 why Hunting Is Conservation: Hunters help manage growing numbers of predators such as mountain lions, bears, coyotes and wolves. The government spends millions to control predators and varmints while hunters have proven more than willing to pay for that opportunity.
- Reason No. 20 why Hunting Is Conservation: Deer collisions kill 200 motorists and cost $7.5 billion a year. For every deer hit by a motorist, hunters take six.
- Reason No. 21 why Hunting Is Conservation: Hunters provide for conservation and for their families. Hunting is a healthy way to connect with nature and eat the world’s most organic, lean, free-range meat.
- Reason No. 22 why Hunting Is Conservation: RMEF was founded by four Montana elk hunters seeking to ensure the future of North America's most majestic game animal. Today, more than 98 percent of our members are passionate hunters.
- Reason No. 23 why Hunting Is Conservation: Sixty percent of budget funding for state fish & wildlife agencies, which are tasked with responsible wildlife management, is generated by hunters & anglers thanks to excise taxes & the purchase of licenses/fees.
- Reason No. 24 why Hunting Is Conservation: With funding from hunters, RMEF helped restore wild elk herds to eight states and provinces.
- Reason No. 25 why Hunting Is Conservation: As society loses its ties to wildlife and conservation, the bonds with nature formed by hunting are the greatest hope for creating the next generation of true conservationists.
*Info via the National Sporting Goods Association (2019) and National Shooting Sports Foundation.
North American Wildlife Conservation Model
The North American Wildlife Conservation Model is the only one of its kind in the world. In the mid-1800’s hunters and anglers realized they needed to set limits in order to protect rapidly disappearing wildlife, and assume responsibility for managing wild habitats. Hunters and anglers were among the first to crusade for wildlife protection and remain some of today’s most important conservation leaders.
As early settlers made their way West, North America’s wildlife populations diminished due to market-hunting and habitat loss. Many species were on the brink of extinction. Elk, bison, bighorn sheep, black bears—even whitetail deer—had all but disappeared across the country. Hunters and anglers realized they needed to set limits in order to protect what they loved and assume responsibility for the stewardship of our natural resources.
Hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell rallied fellow sportsmen. They pushed for hunting regulations and established conservation groups to protect habitat.
Their efforts are the backbone of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. The model has two basic principles – that our fish and wildlife belong to all Americans, and that they need to be managed in a way that their populations will be sustained forever.
The principles of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model are explained more fully through a set of guidelines known as the Seven Sisters for Conservation.
Sister #1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust
In North American, natural resources and wildlife on public lands are managed by government agencies to ensure that current and future generations always have wildlife and wild places to enjoy.
Sister #2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife
Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations.
Sister #3 – Democratic Rule of Law
Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process where everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to develop systems of wildlife conservation and use.
Sister #4 – Hunting Opportunity for All
Every citizen has an opportunity, under the law, to hunt and fish in the United States and Canada.
Sister #5 – Non-Frivolous Use
In North America, individuals may legally kill certain wild animals under strict guidelines for food and fur, self-defense and property protection. Laws restrict against the casual killing of wildlife merely for antlers, horns or feathers.
Sister #6 – International Resources
Wildlife and fish migrate freely across boundaries between states, provinces and countries. Working together, the United States and Canada jointly coordinate wildlife and habitat management strategies. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 demonstrates this cooperation between countries to protect wildlife. The Act made it illegal to capture or kill migratory birds, except as allowed by specific hunting regulations.
Sister #7 – Scientific Management
Sound science is essential to managing and sustaining North America’s wildlife and habitats. For example, researchers put radio collars on elk to track the animals’ movements to determine where elk give birth and how they react to motor vehicles on forest roads.
Hunters also recognized the need for a significant and sustainable source of funding for wildlife stewardship. In 1937, sportsmen successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which put an excise tax on the sale of all sporting arms and ammunition. This was followed in 1950 by the Dingell-Johnson Act, which placed a similar tax on fishing equipment. Today, every time you buy hunting and fishing gear, you contribute to this fund. It generates upwards of one billion dollars every year. This money has been used far and wide to conserve America’s key wildlife habitat. When you combine funding from the excise tax with the state license and tag sales sportsmen pay each year, it constitutes the majority of funding for wildlife in North America. It’s not just funding for huntable wildlife, but for ALL wildlife. And it’s paid for by sportsmen.
Hunters and anglers also launched nonprofit groups that have played a vital role in wildlife conservation. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was founded in 1984, and has protected or enhanced more than 7.9 million acres of vital habitat for elk and other wildlife, and opened more than 1.3 million acres of land to the public to hunt, fish or otherwise enjoy.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was founded so that each generation has the opportunity to experience wildlife in wild country. The Model is second to none and is the most democratic and sustainable system the world has ever seen.