Understanding animal conservation
In order to understand how conservation works, it is important to understand what conservation is. Conservation is the sustainable use of something over time. For example, if I am going on a week long camping trip, and I bring along enough food for that period of time, it would be foolish for me to eat all of the food in the first two days. I would “pace” my eating in order to sustain myself for the duration of the trip. Conserving animals is much the same, except that over time, an animal dies and is replaced by its offspring. The trick to conserving animals is to be sure that when an animal dies, that there is enough of his offspring to replace him, thereby sustaining his species.
Preservation, on the other hand is keeping something and never using it. Using the same example as above, preserving my food would mean that I would never eat the food I brought with me. It follows those things, which are not replaceable (like an original oil painting), would need to be preserved. Things that are replaceable (like food) need to be conserved. If we assume that animals will die and need to be replaced in order to sustain the species, management of animal resources needs to be through conservation.
How do we manage animals through conservation?
Well, first we would have to look at what an animal needs to survive in order to sustain himself long enough to reproduce and carry on the species. Then we need to prioritize those elements that require management, starting from the most basic needs for a species to survive.
Let us look at the basic conservation management priorities. An animal needs space in order to survive. This means air, water or land. Therefore, space management becomes our very first priority. Next, an animal must have something to eat. Therefore, nutrition becomes the second priority... We must have enough land for vegetation to grow in order to sustain the food source for the animals. Collectively, these two basic priorities are called habitat. Preservation (land) and conservation (food) of habitat is the most important factor in sustaining animal species.
With our ever-expanding human population, habitat is being used up at an alarming rate. Take into consideration man’s own instinct to survive, and the picture looks quite bleak indeed. For example, rural population and commercial interests through expansion of farming, aggressive mining, and logging practices are destroying habitat in several African countries. In addition to destroying critical habitat, wild animals are being forced into closer contact with man. Man’s uncontrolled elimination of wild animals is contrary to the tenets of conservation. Thus, animal management becomes a third priority.
Our conservation management priorities are; land first; vegetation second; animals third. It simply cannot happen any other way. For example, there is a tendency, out of pure emotion, to make animal preservation their first priority. Not only is animal preservation not possible (because all animals eventually die), animal management, taken as a first priority is just like building a house without a foundation, it will not stand up!
Now that we are aware of the first two priorities, we will focus on the third priority - animal conservation. It would appear that the major problem is we - man. The most abundant wildlife populations occur in the most primitive parts of the world, places rich in unexploited natural resources and very poor people. To the entrepreneur, these areas represent an opportunity for financial gain in the development of abundant natural resources. To the poor residents, the land represents an opportunity to not only farm and harvest the animals for own consumption, but an also the opportunity to sell their meat and body parts in an ever expanding markets. The uncontrolled expansion of people into primitive areas has a definite negative impact on wildlife. Fortunately, in recent years the idea of economic incentive to conserve wildlife has proven to be successful. A few examples will illustrate this:
Thanks the collection of on going population data, quotas for harvesting wildlife have been developed in order to ensure sustainable populations. When data is unavailable, the harvesting of wildlife is prohibited. The groups, who do this, share the same common interest in wildlife conservation, accomplish projects, make big changes, and have a positive effect for years to come. Today Americans deepen their appreciation and understanding of the land and its wildlife through hunting. It would be sufficed to say that few care more that the millions of sportsmen who contribute significantly in time and money to promote conservation.
- In Zimbabwe, a program has been established which returns money and the meat generated by hunting to the indigenous people. As a result, poaching has been greatly reduced, although there is still the problem of habitat diminution.
- In Cameroon, hunting for eland has become so profitable that an independent international group that investigates game populations has said the future of the eland lies in the hands of private hunting concessions because they promote habitat and control poaching far better than governmental agencies. Again the local people benefit financially, and all food generated by hunting is returned to them. In all cases, wildlife in general benefits from increased quality of habitat generated by economically driven wildlife management.
Hunting is conservation
Hunters are the largest contributors towards conservation and remain the mightiest force the conservation world has ever known. This is because sportsmen and women have historically funded the majority of the conservation efforts used to benefit wildlife. Hunting is an exceptional form of sustainable use that has been proven to create conservation stakeholders, stimulate conservation incentives, generate operating revenue for conservation budget and contribute countless hours of labor to various conservation causes each year.
The purchase of a hunting license, whether by a hunter or non-hunter, is one of the best contributions that can be made today for conservation. By purchasing licenses, paying federal excise taxes on hunting equipment and ammunition, individual hunter’s are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars ensuring the future of many species of wildlife and habitat, both hunted and non-hunted. There has been an astounding 2 billion dollars in funds raised for wildlife in licensing alone in the last 75 years. As paradoxical as it may seem, if hunting were to disappear, a large amount of the funding that goes to restore all sorts of wildlife habitat, game and non game species alike would disappear. Since the late 19th Century, there have been countless ways sports men and women have shown their commitment to preserving this great outdoor tradition. Hunting is an exceptional form of sustainable use that has been proven to create conservation stakeholders, stimulate conservation incentives, generate operating revenue for conservation budget and contribute countless hours of labor to various conservation causes each year.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was created in large part because of the efforts of hunters and their concern for our wildlife resources.
- Hunting gives resource managers a valuable tool to control populations of some species that might otherwise exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat and threaten the well-being of other wildlife species, and in some instances, that of human health and safety.
- Each year, nearly $200 million in hunters' federal excise taxes are distributed to State agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes.
- Proceeds from the Federal Duck Stamp, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunters, have purchased more than five million acres (2005 statistics) of land for refuge systems that support waterfowl and many other wildlife species, which are usually open to hunting.
- In 2010, 11 million meals were provided to the less fortunate through donations of venison by hunters. Nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat made its way to shelters, food banks and church kitchens and onto the plates of those in need.
Conservation and the Law
Local hunting clubs and national conservation organizations work to protect the future of wildlife by speaking up for conservation in our national and state capitals. They have a history of accomplishing numerous milestones in congressional and legislative affairs concerning wildlife conservation -
Link to a list by the US Fish and Wildlife Service of laws passed
- The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (“Act”) is a federal legislation providing protection and management of non-game fish and wildlife. The Act declares that, fish and wildlife are of ecological, educational, esthetic, cultural, recreational, economic and scientific value to the nation.
- Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 is a law passed for protection of the bald eagle (the national emblem) and the golden eagle by prohibiting, except under certain specified conditions, the taking, possession and commerce of such birds. The 1972 amendments increased penalties for violating provisions of the Act or regulations issued pursuant thereto and strengthened other enforcement measures. Rewards are provided for information leading to arrest and conviction for violation of the Act.
- Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act in 1937, strongly supported by hunters, this legislation approved the transfer in receipts of 10 percent excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition from the general treasury to state wildlife conservation programs.
- In 1970, with hunter support, the Dingell-Hart Bill was enacted, making a 10 percent excise tax on handguns available for wildlife restoration and hunter safety training. Proceeds from this tax provide some $41 million per year. North American Wetlands Act was passed by Congress in 1989; NAWCA provides federal matching funds to public-private partnerships for wetland habitat conservation projects in North America. This federal grants program fund to protect, restore and enhance habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife that depend on wetlands. The Service's Federal Aid program collects a federal excise tax on hunting equipment and ammunition and in 1999 distributed some $165 million to state agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of wildlife habitat, and hunter education.
- National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act was the system's first piece of organic legislation, signed by President Bill Clinton, designated hunting and fishing as "priority public uses" on refuge lands.
- African Elephant Conservation Act 1992- The purpose of the Act is to perpetuate healthy populations of African elephants. The Act authorizes financial assistance for research and conservation programs. Requires review of programs and establishment of moratoria on ivory import, requires annual reports to Congress, creates criminal and civil penalties for illegal import and export of ivory, exempts sport-hunted elephant trophies, and allows payment of rewards for those with leads and capture of poachers.
How we conserve
Supporting wildlife organizations is a great idea for anyone.
Wendel Museum of Animal Conservation is an active member and supporter of numerous wildlife conservation organizations. This is one of the ways we do our part to support current enviromental matters if importance. These conservation groups rely on the financial support and contributions of people who care about the future of the environment. By donating to these groups we are helping to support healthy wildlife and its resources, while encouraging the perpetual protection of recreational lands for generations to come.
These Organizations work hard to increase the success of healthy habitat in many ways through projects to protect, and restore the land. The challenge we face today is not whether conservation is a good idea, but rather how and where a strategy will be implemented given the funds and resources available.
- The Nature Conservancy
- Peasants Forever, Coastal Conservation Association
- Foundation for North American Sheep
- Ducks Unlimited
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- CITIES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
- Safari Club International Foundation
- Mule Deer Foundation
- Trout Unlimited
There are many ways to protect the land such as working with landowners, getting politically involved, land acquisition, and land rehabilitation. In addition, land can be purchased restored & conserved with easements placed on the land which will perpetually protect its resource values.
Many Conservation organizations have a strong backing of years of research data as well as professionals in the biological sciences. This is essential in order to address pressing issues involving habitat. With all this valuable research and data, scientists have ability to evaluate and monitor enviromental changes in habitats and begin to enforce strategy in priority areas.
- Grasslands- Secure and restore grasslands to reduce predation rates and improve nest success.
- Reforest- Replanting trees on land that has been cleared for agriculture and other purposes.
- Watersheds- Watersheds have a great effect on the water quality and general health of a wetland. When watersheds are disturbed, silt, nutrients and contaminants can be washed into downstream wetlands, impacting the flora and fauna that inhabit these systems. Habitat programs work to restores drained wetlands, protect stream corridors and established buffer strips that filter nutrients and silt.
Restoration of habitat wildlife is essential to bringing native species back to their indigenous and historic ranges. Research data is very useful when it comes to returning habitat back to its original state. Studies are funded by wildlife organizations that enable people to study species so they can determine the condition of wildlife and their future. Conservation groups involvement in partnership with universities and state wildlife agencies collect data and use that information to determine weather or not a certain habitat is capable supporting re-introduced species, and how this re-population may effect the local community, hunters, and economy. Then it’s up to the participating wildlife agency to decide whether the species is ready to be released directly into the wild. Once introduced, they are monitored for three to five years to study patterns and offspring survival to ensure proper management and the success wildlife species back to their historic ranges.
Re-population of species begins once the study is completed the project has met the approval state's wildlife agency, and landowners. Re-population is the ultimate goal in habitat restoration. Hours and hours of protective studies, research, hard work, and dedication finally pays off when the re-introduction of wild life takes place. There is no greater reward than the releasing wildlife back into its native habitat where they should have been all along! The organization will generally continue up to 5 more years, monitoring patterns, offspring survival, and overall welfare to ensure the population's stability and survival.
Land acquisitions are an important part of habitat conservation planning. Often a conservation group will work with a federal or state management agency (state wildlife department, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, etc.) and act as a steward of the land, protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat, Conservation groups put a priority on acquiring lands with critically important wildlife habitats.
Land acquired for this purpose will often end up opening to the public for hunting and outdoor recreation opportunities. For example, Pheasants Forever has over acquired over 1,313 different land acquisitions totaling over 161,867 acre different land acquisitions. While working in conjunction with local, state, and federal natural resource agencies, those projets today are open to the public for hunting
- Areas that are home to sensitive plant and wildlife species.
- Land at risk of conversion to other land use such as agricultural or urban development.
Conservation easements are both powerful and effective ways to protect of fish and wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, and forests. These easements have already protected millions of acres of wild habitat and open space. A conservation easement document is tailored to meet the needs and interests of the landowner that is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that prevents development from taking place on a piece of property that could diminish its wildlife habitat values. The land remains in private ownership and in many instances the landowner may qualify for tax benefits to date conservation organization has already secured the protection millions of acres of wildlife habitat and open space through easements.