Updated: Mar 17
State fish and wildlife agencies across America rely on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. One hundred percent of license sales, by law, must go directly to conservation efforts. This means that a decline in licenses sold, directly influences our ability to properly manage our wildlife and public lands.
Over the years, I have heard many popular voices in the hunting community mention that we are losing hunters at an alarming rate, and in turn funding for conservation. This piqued my curiosity. So, I recently began to dig into US Fish and Wildlife Reports to see how license sales were trending, and I was rather surprised by the data.
From 2016-2020 hunting license holders have steadily hovered at just over 15 million per year, with the highest amount being sold in 2018 at 15,620,578 (the highest number since the 1990's) and the lowest amount in 2020 at 15,158,443. Obviously, this dip in 2020 is concerning, as a decline in license holders means a decline in funding to preserve our wildlife and their habitat... or does it?
As I continued to dig I found another concern. Hidden in this data is the fact that even though license sales have remained somewhat steady for the past five years the total cost of those licenses have jumped from $824,973,807.00 in 2016 to $902,356,898 in 2020. That's right we bought 255,195 less licenses in 2020 than we did in 2016, but the total cost jumped over 77 million dollars in that same time frame.
What's that mean? It means government agencies have taken it upon themselves to increase fees. Now, I am not a fan of the government's willingness to cover loss of funds with an increase in tax, but this is one area that I can conceivably see the positive impact of my money.
At the end of the day, we must continue to share and promote our heritage as hunters to influence future generations. Information and a passion for the outdoors will promote care for our wild lands and animals through direct contact and indirect funding. With that said, we must also keep a close eye on where our funding goes and maintain a strong relationship with the politics that make these decisions. Remember, call upon your local government officials to serve you and use your vote as your voice to ensure a healthy future for our young hunters, conservationists, lands and wildlife.
Do your research, get involved, and stay informed!
USFWS National Hunting License Report - https://www.fws.gov/wsfrprograms/Subpages/LicenseInfo/Hunting.htm