Educating the non-hunting and angling public about the numerous benefits that sportsmen and women provide for conservation is one of the best ways to help the public understand our time-honored sporting traditions. State wildlife councils offer sportsmen and women the opportunity to pool their resources and educate the public about how conservation is funded, the need to manage wildlife, and the economic impact hunters and anglers have, through media-based information and outreach campaigns. These programs utilize contemporary marketing and educational outreach tools to better educate the general public on the immense economic and conservation benefits generated by hunting and angling.
Educating the non-hunting and angling public about the numerous benefits that sportsmen and women provide for conservation is one of the best ways to ensure hunting, angling, and trapping opportunities for future generations. These activities keep public fish and wildlife populations healthy, facilitate habitat management and conservation, generate revenue for both public agencies and private businesses, and, as shown by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s Economic Impact Report, support jobs.
State wildlife councils offer sportsmen and women the opportunity to pool their resources and educate the public about these benefits through media-based information and outreach programs. These programs are developed with the input of hunters, anglers, livestock and agriculture organizations, marketing and advertising experts, and other conservationists in order to convey the most effective message when communicating with the non-hunting and angling public. The importance of educating these constituencies is further highlighted by the fact that surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicate there are only 11.5 million people who hunt in America, and only 35.8 million Americans fish. According to another survey conducted by the Colorado Wildlife Council, 72% of respondents would vote no to restrict the practice of fishing/fishing opportunities; 63% of respondents would vote no to restrict the practice of hunting/hunting opportunities. These numbers show that sportsmen and women have a responsibility to educate those who have not been in the woods or out on the water about the critically important role that hunters, anglers, and trappers play in supporting conservation efforts across the nation.
First created in 1998 as the Colorado Wildlife Management Public Education Advisory Council (WMPEAC), Colorado’s efforts to educate the non-hunting and angling public have led to the development of the popular “Hug a Hunter” and “Hug an Angler” campaigns that have proven very successful. In 2001, Louisiana passed legislation establishing the “Hunting and Fishing Advisory Education Council” to help educate the state’s citizens on the many benefits sportsmen and women provide for Louisiana. At the 2013 NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit in Illinois, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources gave a presentation on the effort to replicate Colorado’s model and establish a Wildlife Council in Michigan. In 2014, the NASC Executive Council requested the development of a state issue brief on the topic with the hope that other states would follow suit.
Points of Interest
- The Colorado Wildlife Council was established by the state legislature in 1998 to educate the general public about the benefits of wildlife, wildlife management, and wildlife-related recreational opportunities in Colorado, specifically hunting and fishing.
- In 2013, Michigan passed HB 4993, creating the Michigan Wildlife Council within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), financed by a new Michigan Wildlife Management Public Education Fund.
- In both Colorado ($1.50) and Michigan ($1), all hunters and anglers pay a small surcharge on top of all hunting and fishing license purchases to develop a media-based public information program to educate the public on the important role of sportsmen and women in professional fish and wildlife management.
- In Fiscal Year 2015/16, hunter and angler surcharges generated $1.1 million for the Colorado Wildlife Council.
- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported the surcharge generates about $1.6 million for the Michigan Wildlife Management Public Education Fund.
- These programs would ultimately showcase hunting and angling to ensure participation in future generations.
The following states have successfully passed and enacted wildlife council legislation using the language below:
- Colorado: § 4-120, 33 C.R.S. – “(1) (a) The director of the division shall appoint nine individuals, at least three of which are from the western slope, to act as the wildlife management public education advisory council, referred to in this section as the council. The council shall have statewide responsibility and authority.”
- Michigan: MCL 324.43532b – “(18) The Michigan wildlife council shall do all of the following: (a) Develop and implement, in conjunction with a third-party marketing or advertising agency, a comprehensive media-based public information program to promote the essential role that sportsmen and sportswomen play in furthering wildlife conservation and to educate the general public about hunting, fishing, and the taking of game.”
- Louisiana: 56 Section 699.21 – “(A) The Hunting and Fishing Advisory Education Council shall be established within the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to promote the many benefits of hunting and fishing among Louisiana citizens and to educate the citizens of the state on those benefits.”
Sportsmen-legislators should consider working with state fish and wildlife agencies, sportsmen’s groups, and other stakeholders to create programs similar to models found in Colorado, Michigan, and Louisiana. These councils utilize dedicated resources and educate the public about the positive role sportsmen and women play in conserving fish, wildlife, habitat, and outdoor recreation resources that are available to be enjoyed by all