Fishing Conservation photo

No one knows better than hunters and anglers the frustration of getting zero credit or recognition for their contributions to conservation efforts. We’re used to being ignored by the media, the general public and most politicians.

But now it seems we’re also being ignored by scientists. Here’s a story that summarizes a recent study on the demographics of those most and least likely to financially support conservation.

From the story:

Serious hikers and backpackers tend to become supporters of environmental and conservation groups while casual woodland tourists do not, a new study says…The researchers found that the amount of time one spent hiking or backpacking in nature correlated with a willingness, 11 to 12 years later, to financially support any of four representative conservation organizations: the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club or Environmental Defense.”

And here’s the kicker…
“Surprisingly, the more time one spent fishing or sightseeing in natural areas, the less likely that person was to support these particular conservation causes. “Apparently not all outdoor recreation is equal in terms of who is going to be an investor in conservation,” (study co-author) Zaradic said.”_

Now first off, I’m not going to deride any of the organizations mentioned in the story. They’re all good organizations that do good work. But they are hardly a true representative cross-section of the environmental/conservation movement. There are literally hundreds of national, state and local organizations that are out there doing the same thing as the four groups mentioned, and often doing it more effectively. And when you factor in all the hunting and fishing/based organizations that do conservation work you have a huge pool of potential venues in which to donate time or money.

So right off the bat the study’s tiny sample size is going to skew the results. But what’s truly amazing to me is the sweeping generalization that “the more time one spent fishing…the less likely that person was to support these particular conservation causes.”

That statement is so painfully obvious it deserves a huge “well, no s**t!”

Seriously, why would an angler – you know, a person who enjoys and cares about fishing – give money to the Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund and watch his donation go overseas to purchase a nature preserve or do conservation work in some other country when he can give the same money to, say, Trout Unlimited, and see that money put to work here?

And of course the study fails to mention the economic and conservation impact of the billions collected through Pittman-Robertson and Wallop-Breaux. Yes, it’s true that way too many hunters and angler use Pittman-Robertson and Wallop-Breaux as a crutch and an excuse for their political apathy and inaction. Paying a few cents tax on your jerkbaits and bullets does not automatically make you a conservationist and doesn’t give you a free pass to do absolutely nothing, but I often wonder if the authors of these kinds of studies are even aware of the financial contributions sportsmen make to conservation.

So when the study’s co-author states “apparently not all outdoor recreation is equal in terms of who is going to be an investor in conservation” I guess it’s true: some of us are investing a helluva lot more.