Oh dear, you just received another ‘call to action’ in your mail. You want to help, you really do. You have written letters in the past, you have even gone to meetings where decisions are made, but does your voice ever get heard?
Honestly, it is hard to say, categorically, that the public comment system in most of the states where regulations are adjudicated, serves the fair hearing of diverse viewpoints.
Going to the meetings is so very important, but your preparation for the meeting is even more important, and that is the purpose of this blog.
When a decision is to be made about a wildlife regulation before an agency commission, usually appointed by the state’s governor, the options that are presented to them are the result of many weeks of departmental investigation, analysis, recommendation, and sifting through of written public comments. The general disposition of those comments, although all are kept on file, is that the main points are mined and tabulated and presented. We must always remember that this is NOT A VOTE. In state comments are prioritized, while out-of-staters, unless from bordering habitat, are usually viewed as ‘outsiders’. It does not matter how many people are passionate about a particular subject, be it for, or against something, the numbers, unless coming from the traditional constituency that funds wildlife agencies, rarely have an effect. In fact, any form letters that an organization sends you, that you simply sign, will only be counted as ONE public comment, no matter how many are turned in. Commissioners are probably not going to overturn departmental recommendations at a meeting, even if it is packed to the gills with advocates, especially if the regulation comes up once every three years and that is the only time they will see you. It is still important to be there.
Is there a better path forward? Well, let’s look at why there is such lopsided willingness to listen to citizens about what happens with wildlife, afterall, it is held in the Public Trust for all of us. It’s all about the money.
The system of funding of wildlife management agencies is based on three main sources of income. Revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal excise tax dollars from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts and a lesser amount from grants.
(It should be noted here, that while Pittman-Robertson money is raised through a tax on firearms and archery equipment, only 20% is the purchase of guns and bows used for hunting, the other 80% is hobby shooting/archery and/or personal or home security. However it is distributed according to the number of hunters in each state.)
There are a few states that have bountiful resources of wildlife and they have seen a definite uptick in interest in hunting, although there has been resistance from within the states to an increase in out of state hunting! Other states are seeing measureable drops in interest in hunting.
Knowing all this, where the money comes from, who gets heard, who doesn’t, we understand that it isn’t always easy to step up and speak out for the animals you care about. The Cougar Fund would like to help! If you would like to know more about being prepared, understanding state policies and procedures, gaining confidence to testify or write letters without relying on a form, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org. When there is a deadline for comment or a meeting looming, it can be intimidating, so let us help you get prepared ahead of time. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. We are happy to chat or zoom, or help in any way. You are important and together, the only limits are those of vision.