Deer hunting season is in full swing across the state, and while it may surprise some, conservationists point out that folks involved with the sport are supporting land conservation in their hearts and with their wallets.
Walter Clark, executive director of the Blue Ridge Conservancy, says hunting bucks and other wildlife is raising bucks to advance land conservation.
“A lot of our funding sources are from entities that support the Wildlife Resources Commission in support of these game lands,” he points out. “So by protecting land on which some hunting might be allowed in some cases, we’re able to receive funds to protect more land.”
In North Carolina, the sale of hunting and fishing licenses provided 26 percent of the annual revenue for the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission.
The federal Pittman-Robertson Act provides funds from the sale of guns, bows, ammunition and fishing tackle to purchase land.
Ducks Unlimited alone has conserved more than 13 million acres nationwide through fundraising and advocacy.
John Culclasure, land protection manager with the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, Inc., says historically hunters are the individuals who have led the charge for protecting land, including President Teddy Roosevelt and John Audubon.
“Hunters have a long history and hunters are the original conservationists in the country,” he states. “They were instrumental in the creation of our large public land bases and supporting the wildlife conservation initiatives that are the reasons we have strong wildlife populations today.”
Clark says for many hunters, it’s about more than just the act, it’s the ability to acquire organic, free-range meat, and the purity of the land is a part of that.
“Hunters and the fishing community, both are recreational uses that are highly dependent on a clean environment and also available land,” he points out.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are more than 330,000 hunters in the Tar Heel state.