I just do not get it. Why do 95 percent of you care so little about wildlife?
I am talking to all the mountain bikers, birders, river rafters, hikers, photographers and anyone who has ever stopped whatever they were doing long enough to admire and be awed by our diversity of wildlife.
Who covered the cost recently and over the past decade to save the antelope that had been surrounded by housing and commercial development in Prescott Valley?
Who covers the cost for saving desert tortoises, and monitoring our desert bald-eagles? Who provides habitat for the sandhill cranes that call Arizona their winter home?
Who covers the cost of managing the endangered black-footed ferret, the Sonoran Desert pronghorn antelope and our bighorn sheep? Who covers the cost for the restoration of our wetlands, 60 percent of which have disappeared due to development and agriculture?
Who cares enough? Not most of you. And the number of people who do care by putting their money where their mouths are dwindles in number every year.
The 800 species in Arizona are managed by one agency and that agency receives none of your general tax dollars: the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Why the rant? To hopefully get your attention, because just reporting the facts of wildlife management funding have not stirred you to any form of action.
The fact is that excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, hunting and fishing license sales, the duck stamp, and a few other federal programs are the reasons we still have wildlife for you to enjoy.
Game and Fish Departments across the country do not receive any state tax dollars. Could you imagine how much we could do for wildlife and wildlife habitat if there was an excise tax on backpacks, binoculars, kayaks, hiking shoes, walking staffs, mountain bikes and other outdoor gear?
The excise tax on hunting and fishing gear is 11 percent and over the years has generated $20 billion for wildlife. That passage of this excise tax was supported and promoted by hunters and fishers. Would you be willing to pay even an additional 1 percent for wildlife and wildlife habitat? Where you go to recreate and enjoy wildlife is wildlife habitat and it is shrinking in size and quality every day. Do you care?
Hunters and fishermen do care. The best example I can give you is the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society. This organization's goal is to ensure the survival of our bighorn sheep. The ADBHSS membership is made up of hunters, most of whom have either already killed their once-in-a- lifetime bighorn sheep or hunters who will never get the opportunity because there are so few tags for bighorn sheep. Yet, they donate, fund-raise and do habitat enhancement work year in and year out, simply because they care about wildlife.
Even though an excise tax on all the outdoor stuff you buy is never going to be a reality, you can still help.
You can buy a duck stamp at the post office to help our wetlands. You can donate to wildlife management at azwildlifehero.com or azsfwc.org. You can donate to support habitat work by looking up organizations focused on Arizona’s deer, antelope, elk, sheep, or fish and donating to them. Can’t donate money? How about some of your time and sweat equity? There are all kinds of wildlife habitat projects going on all year.
So how about a New Year’s Resolution where you write that check the first day of each year to support our wildlife and wildlife habitat? Even $5 will help.