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Feds Overlook Wildlife Watchers Again in New Conservation Panel




Interior Secretary Ken Salazar created a new panel for citizens to tell the federal government what to do about conservation and wildlife. But, instead of having the Wildlife Hunting and Heritage Council include the growing portion of Americans who just want to watch animals, not gun them down, he geared it to the dwindling minority of hunters.

More Americans have fun watching wildlife than shooting it (71 million wildlife watchers versus 12.5 million hunters), according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hunters already have advocates in the NRA. State wildlife a encourage hunting. The Pittman Robertson Act makes sure of that. As any NRA member can tell you, there’s a 10-11% tax on guns that supports wildlife and conservation. That tax makes the agency beholden to hunters. Seven states have commissions that specifically require hunters or anglers, the HSUS says.

What NRA members won’t tell you is that the tax is on all guns, not just those used in hunting. The NRA tells members that the tax is on “sporting arms” Which weapons does the NRA consider sporting? Pretty much all of them. (I think it’s their effort to get hunters–by far the most respectable and respectful gun contingent–in on the government-fearing bandwagon.) The tax on pistols and revolvers is 10%. What percent of handguns do you suppose are used for hunting? Very few. But the portion of the gun market that buys for self protection, crime or militia purposes doesn’t have a strong lobby. Hunters do, so they keep the tax on handguns and do with it what they want. A big hunk of the money goes towards hunter education–that is, the official government encouragement of hunting.

Shouldn’t the tax on handguns go to support shooting victims? Harvard estimates that gunshot wounds
cost Americans $400 million to $1.2 billion a year.

Hunters did play a huge role in conservation. But they’ve been sitting on their laurels for a long time. Already have many, many seats at the table. It’s time instead for the federal and state governments to let animal watchers move from the kiddie table to where the grown-ups are talking and making decisions.

Where to go to See Wildlife

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  • More Americans have fun watching wildlife than shooting it (71 million wildlife watchers versus 12.5 million hunters), according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • We spend way more money ($46 billion versus on animal watching versus $23 billion on hunting).
  • More than half of all hunters and anglers watch wildlife, too..
  • 23 million wildlife watcher go to see animals away from home.
  • We are birders, too. About 50 million of us feed, watch or photograph birds. That’s 87% of us. But 70% of us also watch mammals.
  • We spent $13 billion in 2006 on wildlife watching trips.

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