Established with the dedicated purpose of protecting and conserving wildlife, game commissions have been understandably staffed by experts in the field throughout their existence. Such experts’ ability to make responsible and effective decisions regarding wildlife management has become contested through non-sportsmen and women pushes for representation on game commissions. Having board members that are neutral on the matter or even directly oppose hunting, trapping, and fishing leads to obstructionism, which in turn will potentially restrict access and opportunity for sportsmen and women.
Game commissions were created with a singular purpose – to conserve wildlife through regulations and sustainable hunting. Since their creation, these entities have been understandably staffed by experts in the wildlife management field: mostly hunters, anglers, and trappers. Utilizing their extensive knowledge of the outdoors, these commissioners have been able to make responsible, informed, and effective decisions regarding fishing and wildlife conservation. In recent years, however, people who do not hunt, fish, or trap, and in some cases are fundamentally opposed to these practices, have pushed for representation on game commissions. They believe that commissions should represent the entire population and not just hunters, anglers, or trappers.
The new pressure for non-consumptive representation on game commissions poses an alarming problem that directly threatens the future of conservation. Sportsmen and women contribute an incredible amount to conservation efforts through the purchasing of hunting licenses, permits, tags, stamps, and other outdoor related gear, in addition to other contributions from habitat organizations. Having commissioners that are neutral on the matter or even directly oppose hunting, trapping, and fishing leads to obstruction, which can restrict access and opportunity for sportsmen and women. If opportunities to hunt are reduced, it follows that sportsmen’s and women’s abilities to contribute to conservation efforts will dramatically decrease, putting conservation efforts for both game and non-game species at risk.
Points of Interest
- In January of 2016, a pro-hunting California Fish and Game Commissioner turned in his resignation over the frustration of non-consumptive obstruction from other Commissioners. In multiple instances, partisan politics has been the driver of commission regulation and not sound science, which sets a dangerous precedent.
- The addition of anti-sportsmen and women onto game commissions represents a dangerous shift in values, from conservation to preservation (i.e., WA, NM, OR, and CO).
- In 2018, an Idaho Commissioner resigned following criticism and controversy after sharing pictures from an African safari hunting trip.
- In Oregon in 2019, a retired marine, rancher, and hunting guide was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Commission but was later rejected by the Senate following criticism by environmentalist groups for big game hunting photos on social media.
- In 2020 and 2021, New Hampshire saw legislative efforts to amend the qualifications that potential members of the Fish and Game Commission must meet, which would ultimately afford recreational clubs and non-consumptive organizations seats at the table.
- In 2021 and 2022, legislators in Missouri (MO HJR 55), Nebraska (NE L 615), and Vermont (VT H 400, S 129) introduced legislation intending to alter the composition and/or nomination process for commissions.
- The 2022 spring black bear season in Washington was canceled after the Fish and Wildlife Commission failed to pass the necessary regulations for the season, resulting in one Commissioner resigning from his post due to the uproar this caused. The composition of the Commission at the time included numerous obstructionists who would rather see an end to the season than the implementation of science-based wildlife management.
- In 2023, Maryland enacted 188 which reforms the composition of the Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission by including the “wildlife preservation community” and the “passive wildlife recreation community.”
It is imperative to keep hunters, anglers, and trappers on fish and game commissions, so that they may advance and protect the time-honored traditions that sportsmen and women hold dear. In addition, keeping pro-hunters on game commissions retains sportsmen’s and women’s ability to contribute to wildlife conservation through the purchasing of hunting licenses, stamps, and other outdoor-related gear.