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Wildlife: Solutions needed as funding sources dwindle

Though it does not seem matters such as big government, taxation and fees and bureaucracy would be much concern when it comes to our nation’s wildlife, it turns out we have a problem.

“The wildlife in America belongs to everybody, but only about 10 percent to 20 percent are paying for it. That’s extremely inefficient,” Matt Dunfee, director of programs at the Wildlife Management Institute, told West Virginia Outdoors.

What Dunfee meant was the decline in humans seeking outdoor recreation has meant a decline in those willing to pay for hunting and fishing licenses, and in excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. That money makes up the bulk of funding for agencies such as West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources, which also serves a management and protection role for wildlife.

Believe it or not, recent figures show only about 12 percent of West Virginians hunt and only about 4 percent fish. The reduction of income for government agencies because of that decline affects their own efforts, but also their ability to work with private conservation groups. So, they are looking for answers. One idea is the R-3 effort — recruiting, retention and reactivation.

It is a bit of a surprise to note the results of the R-3 team’s research revealed perhaps the marketing of outdoor pursuits should not be targeted at older, white men, and instead be aimed at a range of demographics. It is a bit unsettling that these groups are just now coming to that conclusion.

Nevertheless, the concern is real, and West Virginians who love the outdoors and our wildlife should be paying attention.

“We need the help of hunters, anglers, and all other conservation groups. We truly want to hear what you have to say. How can you and your organizations participate? We truly need your help,” DNR Wildlife Section Chief Paul Johansen told West Virginia Outdoors.

Get involved, folks. We talk a lot about how much this wild, wonderful land means to us. It’s time to think a little harder about what we can do for it.

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