December 11, 2023

Extinguishing the North American Model

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From the Outdoorsman – Bulletin Number 50 – Republished with permission from the author/editor.

Extinguishing the North American Model by George Dovel

There is a long history to wildlife management, especially in Europe, and one learns from its examination that periods in which “the public” had possession of and access to wildlife have been short. Invariably the rich and mighty abrogated wildlife for their own use and enjoyment, but also let “the public” bear the cost of keeping and maintaining wildlife.

There was always at least some rebellion against the mighty by the dispossessed and subservient who often elevated poachers to public heroes and celebrated such in stories, poems, songs, even operas (i.e Rainer Maria von Weber, Der Freischuetz (free-shooter = poacher). When rebellions broke out, “the public” took it upon themselves to emulate their superiors and mercilessly slaughtered the hated wildlife. Wildlife was hated as it stood as a symbol for the elite.

What we learn is that wildlife is highly desired and that the rich and mighty will stop at nothing to get it under control – till dispossessed by revolutions. The North American situation, in which wildlife is in the public domain and in which the public, until now, has possessed wildlife de facto and de jure, is a bright exception.

I warned years ago that this is an unstable situation, vulnerable to clever attacks by the rich trying to get control over wildlife. Looks like Utah is leading the way. Our model of wildlife conservation thrives only if there is a large participation in the harvest by the public, and such harvest can be reduced drastically by letting the private sector in on reducing public access while profiting from it.

Another factor is the scarcity of wildlife brought about by heavy predation by large predators. Put the two together, Utah’s embracing of privatizing wildlife and burgeoning predator population and there is preciously little to hunt for by the common man.

The economic miracle of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is predicated on a very high rate of participation by the public in the wildlife harvest. That’s where the money lies! Studies in Wyoming long ago showed that the state got a lot more revenue from every elk killed by unguided hunters than by guided hunters.

Not the few rich, but the many average hunters generated the commerce retail giants in hunting and fishing make their money from. Conversely, you want a six-point bull? The cheapest way to get it in the long run is to hire a guide!

As to predators: hunters in British Columbia harvest about 8,000 moose annually. There are also 8500 wolves in British Columbia. The hunter harvest of moose in BC represents one week’s worth of feeding wolves. Please, do your arithmetic. Already in BC there are conflicts by native and non native hunters over the scarcity of moose. And BC has some 16,000 grizzly bears. Well, that’s another 32,000 moose worth annually.

Cheerful thoughts!