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An open letter to National Geographic

October 17, 2006

I read “The Edible Planet” in the October National Geographic Adventure magazine with great interest. As a longtime hiker and outdoorsman, I’ve often wondered how one could best prepare various wild greenery but never tried the dandelions, cattails, or acorns I come across on a regular basis.

Something else about the article moved me to blog about it, however. National Geographic seems ignorant at best, hostile at worst towards wildlife conservation through hunting. This same apparent bias has been bothering me since Adventure premiered in 1999 (I’ve been a subscriber since issue #1 and a National Geographic magazine reader for decades).

The opening at the top of the story starts:

Hunting may seem a little old-fashioned, but gathering never goes out of style

Hunting does not seem old-fashioned to me. In fact, it seems more important and urgent than ever. We as a society need to embrace hunting just as we have fishing (which is really only “hunting” of water creatures, after all, assuming you eat what you catch).

Why? Because hunters and fishermen pay for most wildlife conservation and much wild lands management.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pittman-Robertson Act excise tax on guns, ammunition, and related hunting gear contributed $294,691,282 to state conservation programs in 2005 alone. Throw in the Dingell-Johnson taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuel and outdoors people contributed more than $523 million to conservation in 2005. Since P.-R. was instituted in 1937 and D.-J. went into effect in 1950, hunters and fishermen have paid more than $10 billion towards wildlife conservation programs. This money is used to buy and conserve habitat for wildlife, edible plants, and all of us hikers, mountain bikers, climbers, rafters, hunters, and for that matter everyone else in the U.S., too.

States rely on this funding to pay their wildlife and wild lands conservation bills. In fact, in most states the agencies charged with such conservation receive no general state funds at all; they are almost completely reliant on P.-R. and D.-J. funds plus hunting and fishing license fees.

This doesn’t even include sweat equity and money that hunters give by way of world class conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (whose biggest conservation partner by number of acres conserved, by the way, is The Nature Conservancy).

Hunters paid for the restoration of whitetail deer. And wild turkeys. And elk, and bears, and cougars, and the list goes on and on. Very little of America’s wild patrimony would exist today if it weren’t for hunting and fishing. If we want wild lands and wild creatures to enjoy while outside on our great adventures, we need money to pay for their conservation. And this money comes from hunting and fishing. It’s just that simple.

Hunting isn’t “old fashioned”, it’s a modern and future imperative.

The good news is, the majority of Americans seems to understand this and support hunting (click here for details from a recent survey). I would love to see National Geographic Adventure catch up with the rest of us and cover more wildlife conservation, hunting, and fishing stories along with the “traditional” (“old fashioned”?) outdoor adventure sports such as hiking, climbing, and kayaking.

Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

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