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Want to Know How to Succeed at Conservation? Ask A Hunter

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. 

deer hunters
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. 

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Bringing Nature to Las Vegas and Other Cities

Today I am at the grand opening of the new Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Nevada.

Desert NWR

Work goes on at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Credit: USFWS

It is a spectacular new building, built with revenue generated by the sale of public land … not from the pockets of the average taxpayers.

The 11,000-square-foot visitor center features exhibits, two classrooms/meeting rooms, offices and a bookstore. It is also loaded with environmentally friendly design elements, and the refuge is applying for the highest certification for sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED Platinum.

What is great about Desert NWR and its new visitor center is that it is only 23 miles from the city of Las Vegas, a city with about 600,000 residents. The largest refuge in the lower 48 states, just a stone’s throw from the 31st largest city in the United States? Amazing.

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Who Really Needs Ivory? The Elephant!

Poaching and wildlife trafficking are decimating wild populations of elephants in Africa and other species around the world, and in the last few years the losses have been staggering as the pace and deadly proficiency of poachers have accelerated – as many as 35,000 elephants killed in 2013. At its current rate, poaching could cost us a fifth of Africa’s elephants over the next decade.

Classic

"Classic" is one of the oldest and most dominant bulls in the western Kruger ecosystem, South Africa. Michelle Gadd/USFWS

We know the United States can’t save these species alone. Conservation of species depends on international community coming together to stop poaching, derail trafficking and cut demand.

The United States raised global awareness of this crisis when we crushed our seized ivory – an action since replicated by France and China ­– and we are continuing to lead by example.

President Obama just signed the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which will result in a near-total ban on commercial trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.

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Last updated: August 31, 2011