WHERE DOES CONSERVATION FUNDING COME FROM?
The management (or conservation) programs of state fish and wildlife agencies, like the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) involves many different people actively working to ensure the well-being of hundreds of species of birds, mammals, fish, and other animals (game and non-game alike) on millions of acres of land and water.
As you might imagine, managing our state's wildlife and habitat can be expensive, with millions of dollars invested each year.
Here, the hunter enters the picture because, unlike other agencies in state government, these MDWFP programs receive little support from taxes paid by the general public. Instead, the majority of its operating funds come from hunters and anglers. Our hunters and anglers pay, as they have for many years, nearly all the bills for on-the-ground wildlife conservation and support them, not to benefit themselves, but to benefit all Mississippians.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
During the first half of the 20th century, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold helped shape a set of ideals that came to be known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The foundation of this philosophy is that all wildlife belong to all of us and that every citizen is entitled to the opportunity to hunt and fish. These leaders understood very early that ethical, regulated hunting is indeed the driving force that maintains abundant wildlife, both in Mississippi and throughout North America.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is widely considered the world's most successful system of management. Its principles restore and safeguard fish, wildlife, and their habitats through sound science and active management.
A strong hunting and fishing tradition is the unique cornerstone of the North American Model, with sportsmen and women serving as the foremost funders of conservation. Through self-imposed excise taxes on hunting, shooting, archery, and angling equipment, and a tax on boating fuels, these consumer/conservationists have generated more than $45 billion for wildlife and habitat conservation since 1937 in America.
Though sportsmen-funded conservation efforts have focused on wildlife that is hunted and fished, sound management emphasizes restoring and conserving habitats that benefit a wide range of fish and wildlife, including non-hunted species, as well as benefiting everyone who enjoys nature.
Currently, there are no alternative, stable, and dedicated funding mechanisms in place (beyond excise taxes and license fees) to support fish and wildlife conservation in Mississippi. Without traditional outdoor users' continued contributions or new funding streams, America's conservation legacy could be in peril.
License Fees & Excise Taxes
Dating as far back as the 1920's, America's sportsmen and women and outdoor industry have selflessly contributed the lion's share for conservation. Through license fees and special excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, they currently contribute more than $4.7 million each day for the benefit of wildlife. The knowledge of how this money is gathered and how it spent contributes greatly to an understanding of the overall conservation picture, and the hunter's important place in it.
License fees make up the largest portion of the sportsman's contributions to America's state fish and wildlife agencies, presently furnishing them with more than $1.1 billion per year and over $17 million in Mississippi alone. Excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment now generate $882 million per year, with Mississippi's share at $11.4 million.
Because of the many ways license fees are used for the benefit of all wildlife, the purchase of a hunting license-whether by a hunter or even a non-hunter-is one of the best investments that can be made, today, for conservation.
Sometimes, a license or permit contributes directly to a species or habitat. The best example is state and federal waterfowl stamps, which all waterfowl hunters are required to buy. Revenue from duck stamps is used by state and federal governments to manage waterfowl habitat. Again, the hunter's contribution goes beyond game species, because the land purchased or the habitat that is managed is also home to many non-game species that thrive in similar conditions.
Text courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation