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By Doug Burt
AZGFD Hunting And Shooting Sports Manager 

Arizona Wildlife Legacy

Your Wildlife Legacy And The Future of Hunting

 

January 1, 2020

For The Hunter (1/20, 2/20)

Happy 2020! It's difficult to believe we're already one-fifth of the way through the 21st century, isn't it?

Our Opportunities

As we head into the new year, I'm reminded of how blessed we are to have opportunities to pursue 10 species of big game - elk, pronghorn, mule deer, white-tailed deer, bison, bear, javelina, mountain lion, bighorn sheep and turkey - and a variety of small game species like quail, rabbits, ducks, geese and doves, as well as predatory and fur-bearing animals.

Not Always The Case

Of course, this wasn't always the case. In the 1900s, few elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep or turkeys roamed Arizona. The passenger pigeon was already extinct, along with a depletion of many of the nation's natural resources, the result of unregulated hunting and commercialization of Wildlife.

Fast Forward

Fast forward to today. Thanks to a strong Wildlife conservation movement, the introduction of science-based management, regulated hunting, the passage of critical legislation and a lot of hard work by sportsmen and conservationists, Wildlife is thriving.

Sadly, though, there's a new threat to Wildlife conservation in 2020 - you and me. There are fewer hunters than ever. The average age of today's hunter is 56 and a member of the baby boomer generation. By 2030, a mere 10 years from now, those hunters will reach an age that limits or even prevents their participation. That gap isn't being filled by future generations and demographic groups, either. Most do not hunt.

Fewer Hunters, Fewer Funds

Our Wildlife legacy is deeply rooted in a unique funding source for conservation. It's called the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Act. Because most Wildlife conservation agencies do not receive general funds, they are dependent on license sales from hunters and matching funds from this excise tax. As the number of hunters dwindles over time, so will the funding - and that will have an impact on the resources needed to manage Arizona's 800-plus native species, the most of any inland state.

Knowing/Fixing The Problem

It's been said that you have to know there's a problem before you can fix it. At the Arizona Game and Fish Department, much work has been done over the years through our hunter recruitment and retention program. We're making strides. If you have questions, send me an email: dburt@azgfd.gov.

Previously printed in the January / February 2020 issue of the arizona wildlife views, published by the Arizona Game and Fish Department

 

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