The Need for Economic Efficiency

Charlie Potter 2014
By Charles S. Potter Jr.
President and CEO, McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership

Since its inception in the early 1900s, the North American model of conservation has been based on the idea that federal and state governments would provide the funding, the labor, and the promotion and advocacy for hunting and fishing in our society.Billions of dollars are generated and spent each year by the federal government and the states to support hunting and fishing. But the landscape has changed in the century since President Theodore Roosevelt and other visionaries launched the American conservation movement.

Back then, there were almost no not-for-profit, private-sector organizations working on behalf of those who hunt, fish or work to conserve and manage land. This has changed in the past 75 years, as the not-for- profit, non-government sector conservation industry has prospered. These organizations have repeatedly proved their ability to effectively design, implement and maintain large-scale conservation programs and projects.

Meantime the funding of hunting and fishing in America remains based on a system that is largely driven by the federal government. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are expended annually on conservation through a complex series of federal agencies and programs. These funding sources face an uncertain future.

We believe that conservation programs – especially those funded by taxpayer dollars – can and must be made more efficient, more accountable, and oriented towards results. They should take advantage of the best management practices and embrace public/private partnerships for maximum efficiency.

The need is great, and the timing is imperative if we are to secure the future of hunting, and fishing and wildlife management in America.

The federally driven model is not designed to recognize the opportunities public/private relationships offer. It is based upon the foundation that more Americans will go hunting and fishing, thereby providing more revenue and political influence. Just the opposite is our future.

Despite massive federal funding, new sportsmen and -women are not emerging from our increasingly urban, indoor-oriented society. Current hunters and anglers are aging rapidly, suggesting that there will be a dramatic decline in the numbers of those who hunt and fish. If this happens, the impact on hunting, fishing and wildlife management will be severe given the current federal and state funding mechanisms, which rely heavily on license fees and excise taxes on sporting equipment and firearms.

Meantime, federal and state lands are less and less likely to be managed in a manner that provides for quality hunting and fishing experiences. The resources for such purposes are already inadequate, and less funding is projected for future. Efficiencies must be found to avert a further erosion of management.

We believe we can help identify those efficiencies, and to create a sustainable, forward-looking funding and deliver model. The current system – largely designed before the evolution of modern, efficient, private-sector conservation organizations – can be improved to meet current and future needs.

The McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership grew out of the recognition that we must to deliver economic efficiency, improve habitat management and increase opportunity if hunting and fishing in America are to be sustained. Gaining efficiencies in governmental expenditures and leveraging public/private relationships is central to the future of hunting, fishing and wildlife management.

But we also firmly believe that the past is mere prologue. We do not assign blame. A system largely designed before the evolution of the modern conservation era can be improved to meet current and future needs.

We are nearing a time when the number of individuals who hunt and fish in America will be in decline resulting in a loss of political influence and financial impact. A sustainable, forward-looking funding and delivery model is imperative.