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Hunters must speak up to preserve hunting

2014-08-10T00:00:00Z 2014-08-10T16:06:05Z Hunters must speak up to preserve hunting The Billings Gazette
August 10, 2014 12:00 am

Those of us that practice the art of hunting are in the minority. The non-hunting majority could shut us down in a heartbeat if they believed we were acting thoughtlessly and unethically. Unfortunately a few in our ranks do act that way. By 1910, most big game and other wildlife were nearly gone due to habitat destruction, and commercial and unregulated hunting. Thoughtful sportsmen became concerned about wildlife losses and influenced legislators to pass laws and regulations that would protect wildlife and habitats. They asked to be taxed in order to fund wildlife research, habitat acquisition, restocking and other conservation needs. Over the years, this conservation commitment brought wildlife back from the abyss to the levels we enjoy today.

During this time, average non-hunting citizens did nothing. If left to them, many wildlife species and their habitats would be gone today. Fewer birds would be left to support a bird watching industry, and the wildlife that now supports a worldwide art industry would be rare.

Nonetheless, there is a growing split in the hunting community. Most want wildlife managed as a public resource under the public trust doctrine and hunting opportunity made available to the public at large. A few, advocate for privatization of wildlife, and access to it, leading to a situation where those with high dollars buy their way into hunting with the consequence that general public hunting opportunities are eventually squeezed out. This practice leads to a European aristocratic style of wildlife management, which the authors view as a tragedy.

If not watchful, moderate and ethical, the public hunting community may lose our beloved activity.

Jay Gore and Erik Lillquist

Missoula

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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