Building on a conservation legacy.
It can take years, sometimes decades of perspective to gain appreciation for some of history's greatest moments. So it was with passage of the 1938 Pittman-Robertson Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. While the name may not suggest greatness to people unfamiliar with its purpose, the Act has funded many of America's most successful wildlife conservation efforts through a unique federal-state partnership. To date, it has directed over $4.8 billion in excise taxes sportsmen pay on their hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies for the restoration of wildlife and its habitat.
Even more remarkable than the success of the Act is the story of its creation. It started in 1936 when President Franklin Roosevelt convened sportsmen, gardeners, Jaycees, and other civic leaders to assess the plight of the nation's wildlife and to recommend how to restore its health. Within two years, they formed local and statewide wildlife federations across the country and persuaded Congress to take action.
This story serves as the inspiration for the National Wildlife Federation's State Wildlife Action Plan Initiative. With the help of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the NWF and five of its affiliates launched the Initiative in 2006 to help states implement their State Wildlife Action Plans. These plans, which were completed by all 56 states and territories last year, present a state-based nationwide biological survey and provide the most up-to-date scientific assessment of the status of wildlife and habitat as well as current threats. They also outline the conservation actions needed to keep wildlife and habitats healthy. The NWF believes these Action Plans can stimulate another renaissance in wildlife conservation.
While the Pittman-Robertson Act continues to conserve wildlife, new problems require new solutions. Unlike the previous threats of drought, depression, market-hunting, and the feather trade, wildlife today must cope with habitat fragmentation, declines in water quality, invasive species, and global warming. Because these threats occur on a much broader scale, they are outstripping the financial resources and responsibility of sportsmen and women.
The NWF's State Wildlife Action Plan Initiative is focused on educating the public and decision-makers about the opportunities to conserve America's wildlife heritage for future generations. The NWF and its affiliates are dedicated to translating the Action Plans into on-the-ground conservation activities and to securing long-term, dedicated funding at the state and federal levels. Here are a few examples of how NWF affiliates are engaged in the State Wildlife Action Plan Initiative:
The Montana Wildlife Federation is working with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) and other members of the Teaming With Wildlife steering committee to increase awareness of, and garner support for, Montana's Wildlife Action Plan. To do so, they are giving presentations to organizations and businesses, organizing congressional field trips to visit Action Plan projects, and briefing local, state and federal decision makers. They are also working to organize tours of habitat and state wildlife grants projects for reporters to generate media coverage. Through a public process, the MFWP has identified opportunities to partner with others most effectively and leverage the most resources. The partnership is now working on a prototype outreach strategy that will engage citizens in "community conversations."
The North Carolina (NC) Wildlife Federation is reinvigorating the state's Teaming with Wildlife Coalition to implement and promote the state's Wildlife Action Plan. They have developed a leadership team that includes a co-chair from the NC Wildlife Federation and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. With 127 members, the NC Teaming With Wildlife Coalition is working on education and communication tools, and is identifying opportunities for members to participate. The NC Wildlife Federation has also been coordinating with several land trusts across the state to deliver the NC Wildlife Action Plan as a tool for habitat acquisition opportunities.
The Environmental League of Massachusetts and Gun Owners Action League have joined forces with MassWildlife to develop a common goal and implement that state's Wildlife Action Plan. They have also created a strategy for broadening support for increased funding and implementation.
The Georgia Wildlife Federation and Georgia Wildlife Resources Division believe the State Wildlife Action Plans are the greatest opportunity since passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act for bringing everyone together for comprehensive conservation. They plan to use Georgia's Action Plan to communicate the justification for providing landowners the incentives and information they need to conserve wildlife on private lands. This is especially important in states like Georgia where 92 percent of the lands are in private ownership. Grown to over 230 organizations, the Georgia Teaming With Wildlife Coalition involves its leaders in "hands-in-the-dirt" wildlife conservation projects and teaches volunteers that even simple actions like building a fence are building blocks in sophisticated wildlife conservation.
The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have formed a unique partnership in which they share an employee who works half-time as the State Birding Trail Coordinator and half-time as the Teaming With Wildlife Coordinator. The WWF's first task was broadening the coalition to include not only WWF affiliates and other rod and gun clubs, but such organizations as The Nature Conservancy, the Council of Churches, labor unions, bed and breakfast owners, garden clubs, local land trusts, bird watching centers, convention and visitor bureaus, and the Department of Tourism. With over 200 members on board and a final goal of between 300 and 500 groups, the coalition has now turned to implementing the Wisconsin Action Plan by becoming actively involved in setting priorities, educating, showcasing, and undertaking grant projects, as well as providing support for the agency and its wildlife program.
The authors are with the National Wildlife Federation and can be reached at bechtel@,nwf.org and email@example.com.