The Transylvania Times -

Conservation At Risk With Fewer Hunters, Fishermen


January 13, 2020

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Council's new R-3 Program puts a renewed interest on recruiting new and younger hunters. (Courtesy photo)

Since the 1980s, sportsmen and women, especially in the hunting sports, have been on a participation decline, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Council (NCWRC) is working on a way to reverse this trend.

While this isn't a new mission for the NCWRC, lately there has been a new emphasis and direct support for this ongoing problem.

Many citizens may not feel or witness the effects of this decline, but those that depend on hunter dollars, most importantly conservation (both from a wildlife and habitat stand point) suffer. And this isn't just a North Carolina problem.

Each state receives funds back from the Pittman Robinson (PR) fund, a federal tax on guns, ammo and hunting/fishing related gear.

These funds are made available to states the following year they are collected.

A figure of $8 million is dedicated to enhance hunter education including construction or maintenance of public target ranges.

Another $3 million ia set aside for projects that require cooperation among States.

One half of excise tax on handguns is set aside for basic hunter education programs. Fifty percent of remaining funds are apportioned to States based on the land area of the state in proportion to the total land area of the country.

In 2017, total PR funds were $780,031,696, with North Carolina receiving 20,734,869.

This was above what the atate brings in itself from license sales.

The Pittman-Robinson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act was passed in 1937, and its funds are by far America's largest contribution to wildlife conservation and public access to natural resources – all paid by the hunting and fishing community to benefit more than just themselves for the natural resources everyone enjoys.

In an effort to stop this downward trend, the NCWRC has put more resources into combating the participation issue with the new "R-3" program. "R-3" stands for recruitment, retention and reactivation.

The NCWRC has been doing many things over years such as mentoring and outreach programs, and our own Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education hosts many programs throughout the year.

The R-3 program's three areas of interest will focus on hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing, and will have a specialist in each field.

These specialists intend to conduct outreach in many ways, building on established partners and finding new ones.

As many urban folks and non-hunting families have not been connected to the traditional sports, introducing them to the health benefits of wild game protein has become a huge interest in many areas.

The sense of adventure and peace of mind getting out into the forest or waterways can have is another draw.

The simple act of watching wildlife in its natural habitat many of us take for granted can be a total new and life changing experience for someone that's never had that opportunity.

The NCWRC-run shooting ranges across the state also play a key role in connecting people to the shooting sports by making it easier to gain the knowledge on how, when and where the downward participation curve will hopefully turn upward.

What does this all mean for Transylvania County?

With over half the Transylvania County in public lands, our county has a lot at stake. If you use the French Broad River, boating access at the Penrose or Blantyre sites were both built and now maintained by the NCWRC.

If you enjoy fishing in any of the public waters in the county, it's managed by NCWRC.

If you enjoy a day at the Fish Hatchery and Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, it's managed by NCWRC.

The responsibility of protecting and managing all wildlife, both on public and private land, falls under their care as well. Those buying hunting and fishing licenses and the gear that is needed to pursue those interests pay for the majority of this.

Our county has a lot to lose if the trend continues downward in hunting and fishing license sales. Sportsmen and women as of Jan. 1 were asked to pay a little more as licenses fees went up to combat some of the short falls in participation numbers.

Bills at the National Level have been introduced to modernize the Pittman Robertson Act to try and combat the issue. There have been amendments over the years that have helped keep pace with conservation needs, but really all those took place before the participation down turn.

If you would like to learn more about the NCWRC R-3 program contact Chester Clark at Locally, follow Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education for program opportunities.

Maybe it's time to purchase a license even if you don't participate; a license can be a direct investment with matching opportunities all going to wildlife conservation.

Whitmire is co-owner of Headwaters Outfitters, and is actively involved in local conservation efforts like the French Broad River Clean up and wildlife rehabilitation programs.


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