Making Hikers, Kayakers, and Bird Watchers Fund Wildlife Agencies

On a related note to Wednesday's discussion on non-hunters on public hunting lands, one sports columnist in Florida argues that perhaps wildlife departments should think about looking beyond hunting and fishing.

From the story in The Ledger:
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Wildlife agencies all over America have a problem. Much of their revenue comes from hunting licenses and other fees, and the hunters are not as numerous as they once were. Over the past several months I've read several articles describing this trend in almost heart-wrenching terms (cue the violins). I don't have any beef with hunters. Hunting's a legal pursuit. It's regulated by state and federal laws. People enjoy doing it and should be able to continue doing it._ _But when it comes to financial support for wildlife management, it seems wildlife agencies are trying to sell a product that fewer people are buying. Outdoor recreation habits have shifted for various reasons: social, economic, practical, aesthetic, etc.

It's time to look at the bigger picture. It seems one important goal for wildlife agencies is to get people outdoors so they can learn to appreciate natural resources and to defend those resources. But if wildlife agencies are trying to sell something that fewer people are buying, maybe they ought to change their marketing strategy. Broadening the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's funding base might help to bring it further out of its somewhat dated "hook and bullet" culture, according to others who have looked at the issue from a wider perspective.

One argument that caught my eye was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management. The article sums up the funding problem this way: "The predominant funding source has been license sales and federal excise taxes paid by hunters, trappers, and gun owners. This leads to a pattern of institutional actions tending to meet the needs of a narrow base rather than broader public interest." In fact, the fastest-growing and most numerous sector in outdoor recreation doesn't involve hunting. It involves nature observation, hiking, nature photography, canoeing and kayaking._

So, do you think financially-strapped wildlife agencies should focus more on non hunting and fishing-based activities, or should they stick to the ones who brought 'em to the dance?