Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.
The folks at the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) invited me to speak at the association’s first-ever North American Whitetail Summit this week, and I jumped at the chance.
A father and son spend time deer hunting at Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. Credit: Carol Weston
It’s hard to find anyone who has done more to sustain and conserve the nation’s natural resources than sportsmen and sportswomen.
More hunters pursue whitetail deer than any other game species in the United States, and whitetail hunting contributes millions of dollars each year to local economies.
All hunters play an integral part in conservation and always have.
Throughout the country, you’ll find hunting groups getting young people interested in spending time outdoors, restoring habitat and financing conservation.
Heck, without waterfowl hunters, we might not know the honks of geese or the quacks of ducks.
Driven by the urgent threat of market hunting and later, the environmental catastrophe of the Dust Bowl, waterfowl hunters organized themselves a century ago to plan and build a solid future for waterfowl hunting.
One part of that plan was the Federal Duck Stamp that waterfowl hunters are required to purchase and carry. Taxing themselves? What an out-of-the-box idea. It worked. Since 1934, the money from sales of Federal Duck Stamps has purchased or leased more than 6 million acres of wetlands habitat in the United States.
The concept of hunters paying for conservation of the resources they love carried through in the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. Since establishment of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs, hunters and anglers have paid more than $15 billion in excise taxes - used by state wildlife agencies to sustain and restore habitat, educate the next generation of hunters and fund sport shooting ranges nationwide.
Another part of the plan was to work with partners, complementing one another’s strengths and coordinating the work to make the most of the resources available.
That strategy helped ensure the future of North America’s waterfowl, which are sustained by management councils and joint ventures that bring diverse stakeholders together to manage harvests and address breeding and habitat needs.
Thanks to all their hard work, we now have many wildlife management areas and national wildlife refuges that protect millions of acres of waterfowl habitat and provide unmatched hunting opportunities.
We are committed to strengthening and expanding hunting opportunities on our national wildlife refuges wherever possible.
Some hunting is permitted on more than 335 wildlife refuges, and we’re finalizing regulations that will create new hunting programs on six refuges and expand existing hunting and fishing programs on another 20 refuges. We’re also modifying regulations for more than 75 additional refuges and wetland management districts to promote additional hunting.
And we are partnering with many stakeholders to do even more.
Together with QDMA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and private landowners, we’ve established three wildlife management cooperatives that encompass more than 70,000 acres of public and private land united for better deer hunting – land that benefits many other species, too.
We’re proud to support the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council – a group that includes leaders of many of our partner organizations – which advises Interior Secretary Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on ways to promote and preserve America’s wildlife and hunting heritage for future generations.
The challenges facing hunting are great, but we can’t give up. Like waterfowl hunters a hundred years ago, we must dig in, band together, consider unorthodox ideas and remember their role as the nation’s foremost conservationists.