HEROES ARE NOT ALWAYS RECOGNIZED
Muir, Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey and Carl Shoemaker three of
these names are easily recognized by anyone who has even a passing acquaintance
with the history of environmental protection in the United States.
fourth is seldom even mentioned in ecology textbooks and is certainly
unknown to the general public. Yet he made a greater, albeit behind-the-scenes,
contribution to conservation and environmental protection than many
a noted environmentalist.
was with the Oregon Fish and Game Commission when he took on the unenviable
task of drafting the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, or Pittman-Robertson
Act, which was signed into law by FDR in 1937. The bill arguably resulted
in the perpetuation of more native wildlife than any prior federal legislation.
The soul of the P-R Act was the protection of natural habitats across
the country, which would benefit hunters who wanted wildlife refuges
and habitat enhancement for game mammals and birds, and restoration
of those with declining populations.
are puzzled that habitat protection for wildlife is so heavily weighted
toward hunting interests. Conservation efforts by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and state natural resource agencies have historically
focused on hunter preferences. But consider this: The wildlife beneficiaries
are not just game species like deer and turkey, which by the way are
more abundant and widespread than a century ago, but also the thousands
of species of non-game animals and plants that thrive because their
natural habitats continue to exist.
decry that funding is directed toward such concerns as target practice
and hunter safety training. Hunters interests are clearly placed
ahead of bird-watching, ecotourism and nature photography. The reason
is as simple as counting money. Hunters pay a lot to hunt.
hunting activities go to the states and the federal government for enhancing
wildlife habitat, managing and maintaining parks and wildlife refuges
and conducting surveys and research to determine the status of game
and a few nongame species. Ultimately the P-R Act levied an 11 percent
federal excise tax on hunting equipment, including ammunition, rifles,
shotguns, bows, arrows and later on pistols. Those taxes benefit natural
environments and all the plants and animals that inhabit them.
wildlife in the context of environmental protection is mostly synonymous
with game species, controversy often arises about whether a habitat
is being restored for the benefit of select species without regard for
other native fauna and flora. But vast areas of habitat controlled by
the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service remain undeveloped
and in a natural state because of their association with hunting.
to paying taxes dedicated to habitat protection, anyone who hunts invests
financially in equipment, including supplies for camping, boating, hiking
and so on. That corporate sponsors of such activities are in favor of
protecting natural areas should come as no surprise. Some commercial
organizations that make their money from hunters strongly support the
protection of natural habitats for game species, including wetlands
wetlands, as I have noted time and again, are critical for maintaining
the countrys environmental health. That shooting animals is good
for Americas natural environments is a paradox difficult for some
people to embrace. Environmentalists should make an effort to do so.
Some preservation groups may even want to develop partnerships with
the hunting community to achieve the common goal of saving entire habitats.
The gain for environmental prosperity from protecting natural habitats
is more important than the loss of a small number of game animals each
of course, is a patchwork of unacknowledged heroes. One of them is Carl
Shoemaker, who should be lauded by hunters. Nearly 80 years ago he drafted
an important piece of environmental legislation for habitat preservation.
Hunters and game species were the target beneficiaries. But virtually
all native species in those same habitats benefited as well. Perhaps
Carl Shoemaker should be the environmentalists hero, too.
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