The pheasant subsidy in New York

Pheasant stocking farm in NJ

Pheasant stocking farm in NJ

Unbeknownst to most New Yorkers, the state has been carrying on an expensive British tradition of hunting flashy Chinese birds. For nearly a century New York state has been raising and releasing pheasants on the Richard E. Reynolds Game Farm near Ithaca. Each year the state produces about 100,000 live birds (95,309 in 2009). Only 19 states still stock pheasants, which costs $10-$12 per adult bird, says Casey Pheiffer, an HSUS wildlife abuse expert.

Budget-conscious governors have been trying to kill off the program for decades. Only 3% of New Yorkers hunt while 23% like to watch wildlife.  Gov. David Patterson tried to cut it 2008, noting it could save the state up to $750,000. The first Gov. Cuomo tried to get rid of it in 1991. But the pheasant hunters, backed by the NRA, always win out.


Stocked Pheasant

A stocked pheasant in NJ

Hunters argued that they pay for it themselves. They do have a case. Hunting and fishing permits go to the Conservation Fund and federal taxes on handguns, rifles and ammunition go through the Pittman-Robertson Fund to support conservation. But the DEC budget and each of these funds’ contributions is terribly opaque.
Funny thing though, they cut a deal with Patterson, who agreed to keep the Reynolds Game Farm open in exchange for raising hunting fees. Which makes it seem like they really weren’t financially pulling their weight before. And now they’re annoyed because even though the state raised hunting fees, it still subjected the DEC to the same cuts as the rest of the state. So, they are paying more and getting less.
But a lot of the arguments over funding are really over what counts as conservation. Since the early 70s Pittman-Robertson has covered a much broader base than hunters, by taxing handguns. Yet, its focus has diverted from conservation to promoting hunting, especially through subsidized hunter education classes. I’ve gone to one of those classes and got a direct, hard pitch to join the NRA from the New York state employee who ran the class.
“That tax was on ammunition and equipment already. It just started going on wildlife,” says Pheiffer. “It’s not like hunters raised their hands and volunteered to pay it.” Americans think of conservation as helping maintain a self-sufficient ecosystem, compensating for human interference. Hunting may be a part of that, especially in areas where other predators have been wiped out. Yet most residents are unaware how much their conservation departments keep adding foreign species to give people something entertaining to hunt. Many species added or encouraged for hunters (Canada geese, white-tailed deer) took over. The pheasants released are usually not savvy enough to survive.
“Wildlife is supposed to have a chance to escape the hunter,” Pheiffer says. “Wildlife managers are raising animals that have the survival skills of broiler chickens.”
The New York State “Conservation” Fund advisory board has been complaining to state lawmakers that it is being misused and spent on things that don’t directly benefit hunters, the Ithaca Journal reports. WNBZ recently worried about  hunters and whether they were getting a fair shake, too.
The angry group wrote a letter to lawmakers:
The members of the CFAB would like to remind you that the hunting, fishing and trapping community in New York State is the only interest group that funds the management of the resources that are important to them. Hunting, fishing and trapping license sales generate approximately $47 million dollars per year and leverage millions more in federal aid as a direct result of the license sale revenue. In addition, hunting, fishing and trapping generates an estimated $3.5 billion to the state economy on a yearly basis, supporting thousands of jobs across New York.
Here we go again. Hunters are always trying to rope fishermen into their game of grievances. The big federal survey everyone quotes says that wildlife watchers in New York generate $1.5 billion in spending–but fishermen make up about two-thirds of that, $928 million. The multiplier,  jobs-created numbers are notoriously squishy. But they still point to wildlife watchers spending about three times as much as hunters. Want a fee for hiking? Wildlife rehabiliation? Birdseed? Fine. We’ll pay it. It would represent a teeny percentage of the money my family pays in taxes to New York state. But then we want to have a say in how New York manages our wildlife.
pelicanpuffinhummingbird Where to SEE WEIRD BIRDS (All the interesting birds: pelicans, puffins, prairie chickens, vultures, hummingbirds)



Money spent on Fishing
Connecticut $230,348,000
Maine $256,252,000
Massachusetts $669,574,000
New Hampshire $177,624,000
Rhode Island $147,097,000
New Jersey $746,274,000
New York $928,943,000
Pennsylvania $1,252,380,000
Vermont $61,861,000


In the mid-Atlantic (NY,NJ, PA), 27% of people are wildlife watchers while only 5% hunt. Four in 10 New Englanders are wildlife watchers while only 3% hunt.

PARTICIPANTS Fishing % Hunting % Wildlife Watching %
U.S. TOTAL 29,962,000 13 12,534,000 5 71,0068,000 31
CT 293,000 11 40,000 1 1,102,000 40
DE 76,000 11 22,000 3 212,000 32
ME 226,000 21 148,000 14 612,000 57
MD 482,000 11 148,000 3 1,334,000 31
MA 458,000 9 67,000 1 1,726,000 34
NH 126,000 12 51,000 5 480,000 46
NJ 534,000 8 86,000 1 1,537,000 23
NY 1,004,000 7 513,000 3 3,482,000 23
PA 988,000 10 920,000 9 3,638,000 37
RI 83,000 10 13,000 2 313,000 37
VT 70,000 14 58,000 11 279,000 55



Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated

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