The Legally Structured Role of Hunting and Fishing in the US & Abroad
by John J. Jackson, III
Introductory note by the author: The subject of “animal law” includes animal rights. Animal law is part of American law school curriculum. A number of state bar associations have established “animal law” committees or sections and the American Bar Association has formed an Animal Law Section. There are “animal law” courses at Yale, Harvard, University of Washington School of Law, etc. These schools also have separate “animal rights” courses in the curriculum. Inevitably, animal rights, cruelty and humane concerns are more likely to be discussed in “animal law” courses in law schools than in animal law section programs of state bar associations. Likewise, livestock, farm animals, dangerous animals and pets are the most common topics before state bar association sections.
For that reason, I accepted an invitation to make a presentation before the Texas Bar Association’s 5th Annual Animal Law Program (April 2005). Two speakers were true animal rights lawyers from Washington State and Michigan, and the others were somewhere in between in philosophy. My own presentation served giving the audience a better appreciation of the indispensable role of hunters and hunting. Most of the lawyers in the audience didn’t know and appreciate the importance of hunters and anglers. The faces in the audience reflected surprise that hunters and anglers pay more for non-game as well as bio- diversity than all others in society combined.
My presentation is not about livestock, farm animals or pets, it’s about the conservation and management of our wildlife and wild places. I am here to help complete the full spectrum of animal law issues.
In the 20th century America’s wildlife system became the envy of the world. Commonly called the North American Wildlife Model, it is a user pay system primarily funded by legally required hunting and fishing license fees, excise taxes on manufacturers of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and motor boat fuel taxes. The licensing and taxing of hunters and anglers provides an indispensable $3.8 billion dollars per year in revenue to fund approximately 75% of state wildlife conservation budgets. The system has been the “backbone” of America’s wildlife management and habitat success. It has restored America’s 230,000 Wild Sheep, 1 million Black Bear, 1 million Pronghorn, 1.2 million Moose, 1.2 million Rocky Mountain Elk, 6.4 million Wild Turkey, 36 million Whitetail Deer and up to 105 million Waterfowl. It has also paid for the largest share of conservation of non-game species. Consequently, hunters and anglers have contributed more for wild non-game species than all others in society combined and continue to do so today.
This government management infrastructure is reinforced by sportsmen NGOs that have no equal such as Ducks Unlimited, the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Wild Turkey Federation, etc. America’s hunters and anglers pay for the law enforcement. They pay for the research. They pay for the management. They pay for the habitat. There are an estimated 147 million different hunters and anglers that lawfully hunt and/or fish every 3 years in the U.S. They are the givers, not the takers. This user-pay system is the wildlife conservation paradigm and the status quo in North America. It has been the primary force for more than one hundred years. It may be useful to compare this user-pay, sustainable use system with other legal wildlife regimes. The benefits of this system are easily contrasted with those such as in some South American or African countries where all hunting is illegal under those legal regimes in principle all is protected. There are no revenues from hunting so there is little revenue for law enforcement beyond the borders of limited protected areas, less research, less management infrastructure, less management and fewer habitats. The wildlife is used anyway, but that use is not harnessed to serve, conserve and to protect. The wildlife is poached. The potential resource of hunting and fishing is not harnessed by the legal system to provide revenue and conservation incentives or to build and maintain a wildlife management infrastructure. That system proves that if you leave your house empty, thieves will move in.
The popularity of big game hunting in America has grown at an incredible rate over the past 50 years. Basically, it has tracked the rebounding growth in big game animal populations. Big game hunting has never been more popular. Those hunters and fisherman have spilled over into foreign countries. Many of the conservation managers in developing nations have been trained in the USA. They have learned to use licensed, regulated tourist hunting to conserve wildlife and biodiversity. Unlike resident hunting here in the U.S.A., tourist hunting is much higher in revenue, and lower in volume with even lower biological impact. Tourist hunting and fishing now provide the revenue means of local and national management authorities and the local and national incentives for wildlife and habitat conservation abroad. The various legal strategies are purposefully designed to use hunting for conservation or to provide conservation through hunting. Game species are hunted to conserve them.
The role that sustainable use can have in conservation has been recognized and adopted as policy in the Resolutions of IUCN’s Second and Third World Congresses. It’s embodied in the provisions of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), including the CBD and CITES adoption of the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines of Sustainable Use. CITES recognizes the special role that recreational hunting and fishing can play by giving such practices favored treatment. CITES prohibits all commercial trade of species listed on Appendix I, but not hunting and fishing trophies. Trophies personal use have been expressly favored as early as at COP2 and at COP9 further unnecessary impediments to the export and import of hunting trophies of Appendix I listed species were removed. CITES also requests importing countries to accept the export countries’ hunting trophies and related biological and management decisions.
Hunters as Pro-Active Citizens
Go public – Whether it be talking with a reporter or chatting with your neighbor, take every opportunity that comes your way to share your hunting experiences and your conservation knowledge.
If we only communicate with other hunters without making a concerted effort to reaching the public, we are preaching to the choir.
Continually cultivate and seek out ways to explain the conservation relevance of hunting to non-hunters and that incentive-driven-conservation of biodiversity benefits all.
Always strive for personal excellence whilst in the field and hunting; enhance by your individual action the survival of wildlife populations, the protection of biodiversity, and the promotion of sustainable use of nature.
The required “non-detriment” determinations for trade in hunting trophies of Appendix I species still have to be made by exporting and importing countries, but that too has been facilitated by the development of quotas set by the CITES Parties. The first such quota for leopard permitted tourist hunters to bring their trophies home. Leopard that would inevitably have been shot, poisoned or snared became trophies and hence one of the building blocks of conservation infrastructure. The quota favored the limited, licensed, regulated tourist hunting of leopard turned that species from a liability into an asset that paid for its conservation and the conservation of other species.
Similar quotas have been established by the Parties with the underlying recognition of the benefits that can arise from the sustainable use of game species. Like the Nile Crocodile, Cheetah, Markhor, White Rhino and Elephant Hunting trophy quotas have been accepted and set when the population of the affected species have been less than 2,000 as in the case of the Markhor in Pakistan’s Targhor region. Such quotas have had remarkably positive conservation consequences. The licensed, regulated trophy hunting of White Rhino has generated millions of dollars. When the hunting began there were less than 2,000 white rhino in existence. The white rhino population has now grown more than seven fold. The revenue from the tourist hunting has provided the means to save the rhino and the motive as well. White Rhino have been hunted to conserve them. The management regime has been strategically designed to conserve wildlife through its use.
Now the critically endangered Black Rhino has reached the population level of a few thousand as the White Rhino had decades ago. At the COP 13, the 167 Parties to CITES adopted a trophy hunting quota for Black Rhino. Quotas of 5 for Namibia and 5 for the Republic of South Africa were established. As a game animal, that rhino species has an edge on its own survival, a highly regulated second chance. The quota is intended to capitalize on that contemporary conservation strategy. It remains to be seen if the Black Rhino can benefit from tourist hunting as the White Rhino and other species have. Why? Unlike the White Rhino, the Black Rhino is listed on the US Endangered Species list as “endangered,” not just CITES Appendix I.
The USF&WS has had regulatory authority to permit importation of ESA “endangered species” from the inception of the Act, but has had a practice not to grant such permit applications. The Service’s practice has been contrary to the American conservation experience and directly conflicts with modern sustainable use principles. It’s been a diplomatic insult to developing nations and has obstructed those country’s earnest efforts to use licensed, regulated, limited hunting where it can do the greatest good. In the past, the Service has permitted the import of trophies of “endangered” Bontebok taken in South Africa’s programs on the basis they were captive bred and the hunting activity “enhanced” the survival of the population in the wild. That, in fact, has provided the necessary revenue for game farmers to maintain their Bontebok populations and the incentive to positively produce them.
The USF&WS has also permitted the taking of ESA listed “endangered” exotic species in Texas when a share of the revenue has been directed back to the species’ country of origin to enhance the species recovery or restoration in the wild. As a practical husbandry and management necessity, surplus animals have to be controlled. Those permitted hunters from the U.S. do indeed provide the primary conservation revenue in India, Laos, Cambodia and other distant countries for endangered species such as Barasingha, Eld’s Deer and Arabian Oryx. Hunting those listed species in Texas is funding most of those species conservation. That is another statutory and regulatory success arising from wise use.
The USF&WS has noticed a proposed change in practice to permit importation of trophies of game species listed as “endangered” in the Draft Policy for Enhancement of Survival Permits for Foreign Species Listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2003. The purpose is to give those game species the advantage they should enjoy as game species but only in very select cases where the range nation has a comprehensive program that is dependent upon trophy hunting and the hunting is a net benefit to the species’ survival or restoration. If fully put into practice, this will allow the American hunting community (both hunters and their conservation organizations) to show once again what sustainable use can do. The very possibility has already been the driving force underlying the conservation advances of species like the Black Rhino. Unfortunately, to this date, the Service’s permitting practices have denied foreign game species listed as “endangered” their greatest hope of survival.
In summary, hunting and fishing are more than important recreational activities. Hunting and fishing programs have been crafted and designed to propagate game and non-game species. Whether abundant or endangered, smartly crafted programs can serve and save our wildlife around the world.
This essay (shortened) is reproduced with the kind permission of “Conservation Force”. For detailed information go to www.conservationforce.org