“Over four decades ago, Americans from all walks of life came together to tackle a shared challenge,” declared President Barack Obama in his Earth Day address. “The first Earth Day was a call to action for every citizen, every family, and every public official. It gave voice to the conservation movement.”
In fact, well before the first Earth Day, millions of Americans “came together” in a “conservation movement.” Alas, to President Obama and most of his staff those millions of Americans mostly belonged to those insufferable rustics who “cling to guns and Bibles.”
The Pittman-Robertson Act (1937) imposed an excise tax of 10 percent on all hunting gear. Then the Dingell-Johnson Act (1950) did the same for fishing gear. The Wallop-Breaux Amendment (1984) extended the tax to the fuel for boats.
In this Oct. 2008 photo provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is a little brown bat with fungus on its nose in New York. Michigan and Wisconsin wildlife officials said Thursday, April 10, 2104 that tests have confirmed the presence of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions of bats in the U.S. and Canada. The disease has now been confirmed in 25 states following today's announcements in Michigan and Wisconsin. (AP/New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ryan von Linden)
All of this lucre goes to “protect the environment” in the form of buying and maintaining National Wildlife Refuges, along with state programs for buying and maintaining various forms of wildlife habitat.
For the last couple of decades hunters and fishermen have contributed over $1.5 billion per year towards Earth Day founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson’s lofty goal. To date, hunters and fisherpersons have shelled out over $20 billion “on behalf of the environment.”
A study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that for every taxpayer dollar invested in wildlife conservation, hunters and fishermen contribute nine.
So please note: To "preserve nature," they don’t tax Birkenstock hiking boots and Ying-Yang pendants – but they do tax my shotgun. They don’t tax Yoga manuals and Tofu tid-bits wrapped in recycled paper – but do tax my 30.06 deer rifle. They don’t tax binoculars or birding Field Guides with cutesy photos of the red-cockaded woodpecker and spotted Owl – but they do tax the shotgun shells I blast at Mallards before arraying on my grill as Duck-K-Bobs (cooked rare and lovingly basted with plenty of butter, Cajun seasoning and teriyaki sauce).
The author, Humberto Fontova, poses with his catch of the day. All of his hunting and fishing gear was taxed and put towards conservation efforts. Photo Courtesy of the Author.
Going further, they don’t tax Kayaks and rock climbing picks and ropes – but they do tax my compound bow and rifle scope. They don’t tax the plastic water bottles on Mountain bikes (or the mountain bike itself, come to think of it) or the cutesy spandex shorts these yo-yos wear – but they do tax my duck decoys and camo pants. They don’t tax Yanni and Enya CDs – but they do tax the arrows I fling at Bambi before he sizzles on my grill as Bambi-burger (lovingly draped with thick bacon slices that dribble their appetizing fat into the meat while cooking. Then a chunk of cheddar cheese melted on top.)
You talk about a "Cheeseburger in Paradise," Jimmy Buffet! Try one from Bambi!
Ten cents of every dollar I spent on my hunting and fishing toys (I'd cite the total but my wife might read this) funds Federal and State "conservation" programs.
From my guns and ammo to my duck calls and decoys, from my rods and reels to my lures and gaffs, from my trolling motor to the very fuel for my outboard – ten cents of every dollar in this ghastly expenditure funds habitat for Spotted Owls, Red Cockaded Woodpeckers, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Manatees, Snail darters, Black-Footed Ferrets, California Condors, Florida Panthers and Sea Otters.
State Wildlife Conservation Officer Mike Girosky pulls a tranquilized bear from a tree behind 4006 Royal Avenue in Erie, Penn. on July 9, 2013. The 125-pound black bear was removed from the scene and released in state game lands. Neither the bear nor any onlookers were injured in the incident, which was reported at about 1 p.m. Tuesday. (AP Photo/Erie Times-News, Christopher Millette)
None of these creatures (from what I hear) make a decent Gumbo or even a passable Chili. I must be crazy. But I have no choice. And this avalanche of tax dollars comes on top of those I fork over for the stacks of licenses, and permits, and stamps I'm required to have before I set a foot afield or set my boat afloat. Last season these totaled $500. (But sweetie! There are huge fines for hunting and fishing without them!)
And all the above is on top of my voluntary dues and assorted donations to such organizations as Ducks Unlimited. (But snookums! I thought you loved the duck print I brought home at 2:45 am from the banquet/auction?)
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation these donations to these organizations total $300 million a year.
As mentioned, just last year, hunters and fishermen (not birdwatchers, not rock-climbers, not kayakers, not nature-hikers) contributed" $1.5 billion to purchase and maintain places for greenie-weenies to frolic and nature-watch.
You'd think some thanks might be in order from these freeloaders – from the smarmy crowd not forced to buy any "Bird-Watching stamp" or "Hiking stamp," or "Kayaking stamp", or "Rock Climbing Stamp," or "Yanni-Listening Stamp," or "Quartz-Crystal-Gazing-Stamp."
This May 28, 2013 file photo shows a on a rock formation known as The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. (Photo: AP/Brian Witte,File)
You'd think Tofu-munchers might appreciate us hunters' funding habitat for their spotted owls, kangaroo rats, snail darters and louseworts, and bankrolling the scenery on their "nature trails" as they self-righteously plod along in their "earth-friendly" Birkenstocks and granola-flecked frocks, quartz crystals rattling in their pockets en route to a hillside Sunrise worship to crystal-gaze and Enya-listen.
We pay our way – in fact, we pay the hikers and bird-watchers way, too. But rather than going afield as passive voyeurs, rather than regarding nature as a Disney cartoon, we accept nature's diktats. We revel in our role as full-fledged participants in her cycle of fang and claw (but add bullets, buckshot, broadheads, treble hooks and gaffs to the primal drama).
You'd think the voyeurs might throw us a bone every now and then? Well, think again.
Here's the Sierra Club's official position: "Wild animals should not be valued principally in terms of whether they can serve as targets. As members of the family of life, we should respect the moral right of all creatures to exist, to be free of unnecessary predation, persecution, and cruel and unduly confining captivity."
Anyway, you’re quite welcome, Greenies.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of five books including his latest, "The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro."
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