A New Era of Conservation

By: Breanne Conway | Contributing Writer 

Millenials have become the forefront of blame to the collapse of a growing number of industries, from large chain restraunts to cereal to homeownership. But there is another industry to add to the list, one that is much more paramount to our own future, which millennia’s are rejecting, hunting. The renewal/purchasing of hunting licenses in New Hampshire is reaching a point of stagnancy. For the first time in the history of the state, hunting licenses are not keeping up with the ever-increasing cost New Hampshire Fish and Game faces each year to maintain projects and staffing. This plateau reflects an ideological change in our generations perspective; admissions to National State Parks have reached an all time high (a record 4.2 million Americans visited a national park in 2016) and a whopping 90% of New Hampshire locals believe that maintaining our wildlife is a critical priority. As a generation, it would appear we are seeing the importance of connectivity with the earth. And yet, these downward trends in hunting licensees are seen across the United States. We are finding our connectivity in a different way than past generations, not through sporthunting, but by finding solitude in our forests. Yet the far-reaching affects of the demise of hunting, is something many are ignorant to. Hunting licenses account for 32% of all Fish and Game funding for the state of New Hampshire. Historically, it has been an ever increasing, and consistent source for funding. This money is typically allocated to management of Game species, Fisheries, as well as the maintenance of our 66 natural areas/state parks. This management has become paramount to maintaining the beautiful biodiversity that New Hampshire has to offer. In the face of a high tick population killing moose calves over winter, shrinking habitats, and increased wildlife-human interactions, this funding is more important than ever. New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game have been paramount in maintaining data on Chronic Waste Disease, a disease leading to the death and decline of many Moose across the East Coast. They’ve begun restocking pheasants in more than 46 towns, to combat the decreasing population. All of these programs are threatened as more and more cuts are being proposed in response to the deficit in funding, stemming from a plateau of hunters within the state. Since 2006, New Hampshire Fish and Game has cut 11% of staff, on top of eliminating multiple programs. They continue to try and increase the numbers of hunters in New Hampshire though marketing techniques and education, which has begun consuming more and more of its annual fund, but the fish aren’t biting. Leaving New Hampshire at a loss of what to do. As millennials usher in this new era of conservation, we come to cross roads. Historically, funding was allocated to the management of species that secure funding for the next year. In other words, the money we make from fishing/hunting licenses is usually put back into managing our hunted species, to ensure a plentiful hunting season for the following year. Should New Hampshire begin to garner funding from alternate sources, like an additional tax on outdoor recreation gear, or a fee to register kayaks, the door for new conservation projects swing wide open. Right now, our conservation is fiscally driven, but by removing the price tag from each buck and does head, New Hampshire can allocate funding to the ugly species. Currently, only 3% of funding goes towards nongame species, though that doesn’t mean that nongame species aren’t in need of management. For example, the silver haired bat is currently listed under NH’s “Species of Special Concern”. They are suffering from severe habitat loss. At the moment, though we know they are struggling, there is no data available for their current population size. Currently, there is no fiscal return on species we aren’t hunting and so it’s difficult to justify devoting any of New Hampshires’ already scarce funding towards these less than beautiful species. Perhaps, as we step away from hunting, we can step away from a fiscally driven management practice, and begin to truly preserve the unique biodiversity our state has to offer. We need to start thinking critically on just how important our access to wilderness is, and how we want that reflected in our everyday life, as members and caretakers of the New Hampshire wilderness. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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