Key Deer

A Key deer appears at the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, Florida, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

Here in Blacksburg and its surrounding regions is some of the most picturesque landscape of the state, with outdoor recreational activities unparalleled to any other land in the nation. This region is known for its popular outdoor recreational opportunities, especially the nearby national forests and parks that are made for the enjoyment of hikers, bikers, hunters, anglers, boaters, trappers and birdwatchers.

The term “conservation” is often associated with anti-hunting and animal rights’ protection groups. The media are leaders in portraying this view of wildlife habitat conservation. Contrary to this belief, the conservation of wildlife actually thrives on the efforts of hunters and anglers, and the economic impact they have on the conservation efforts made by states’ fish, wildlife and natural resource services.

Our ability to engage in our favorite outdoor recreational activities is afforded by a system of funding regulated by the federal government. This system of funding transpired because of some of our nation's early outdoor enthusiasts, who were also politicians.

The American System of Conservation Funding is a “user-pays, public-benefits” program that relies heavily on the contributions of hunters, anglers, recreational shooters and trappers. This system of funding stemmed from The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, when Sen. Key Pittman of Nevada and Rep. A. Willis Robertson of Virginia developed a system that would reintroduce and regulate North American species that were on the brink of extinction due to overhunting during the early 20th century.  

Also known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, The Pittman-Robertson Act requires funds from excise taxes on guns and ammunition to be given to the Secretary of the Interior. These funds must be apportioned to states on a formula basis for paying up to 75 percent of approved state projects that are intended to benefit wildlife habitats and populations. This act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, a strong advocate for conserving our nation's hunting and fishing industries and outdoor heritage.

This act is one of the most impactful pieces of legislation of our nation’s history. The funds allocated through this system are what ultimately allow modern outdoor enthusiasts and sportsmen of all kinds to pursue their favorite activities. They give us accessibility to our nation’s natural resources. These activities are all possible due to the funds that stem from the equipment purchased by hunters and trappers. Because of their dedication to the age-old traditions of hunting and trapping, we have the freedom to reign on the land we cherish. Sportsmen and hunters are the most vital sources for this system’s funding, and were the largest supporters of the act during its introduction.

This system encouraged states to take responsibility for managing their own conservation efforts and wildlife restoration projects to improve outdoor participation while simultaneously restoring wildlife and their habitats. This was the initial step in the conservation movement.

Without the Pittman-Robertson Act, our favorite outdoor activities would be limited, or would cease to exist at all. As a result of hunting laws and regulations, wildlife in North America has rebounded exponentially, continuing to thrive in all regions of the country.

The American System of Conservation Funding reflects the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which holds two basic principles: All wildlife belongs to the people, and it should be managed in a way that will prosper for generations to come.

This model of conservation illustrates the success of maintaining levels of recreational sport hunting while keeping wildlife populations at a healthy balance. The American people ultimately own and financially support our nation's wildlife.

Anti-hunting and animal rights groups falsely accuse hunters’ and anglers’ recreational activities — which are regulated by federal and state governments — that contribute to wildlife species burgeoning in North America and around the world. Conserving wildlife and its habitat includes hunting and fishing to maintain populations of wildlife at a healthy level. The combination of the American System of Conservation Funding and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation ultimately make wildlife agencies’ efforts possible.

Today, all sportsmen contribute to the efforts of our state's wildlife research and programs that will thrive. Natural resource agencies work with hunters, anglers, boaters and trappers to continue providing healthy landscapes and wildlife populations for the public to enjoy. Supporting wildlife conservation includes support for hunting, angling and trapping. The true definition of wildlife conservation is not consistent with what animal rights groups often tout as conserving wildlife and natural resources.

It is up to us as sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts to continue contributing to the funding that enables us to get outside and explore the gift of nature that we, the people, own. Without these funds, we would not able to venture to Pandapas Pond for a stroll, or Tom’s Creek to cast a line. As a Virginia Tech student, be sure to take advantage of all of the outdoor opportunities in the surrounding Blacksburg region before graduating.

Whether you enjoy harvesting or simply watching wildlife, your ability to do so is possible because of dedicated sportsmen. You can absorb the stillness of the woods as an escape from the stressful college workload as they are carrying on the tradition of our ancestors.

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