Unlike farsighted hunters and anglers in the first half of the 20th century who demanded they be taxed to fund wildlife conservation for the future, watchers have been content to enjoy the free ride provided by sportsmen.
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980 encourages states "to develop conservation plans for non-game fish and wildlife of ecological, educational, aesthetic, cultural, recreational, economic or scientific value." Unfortunately, the Act has never been funded at the federal level.
One obvious way to provide additional federal funding for wildlife conservation would be to impose a federal excise tax on bird food, feeders, optics, cameras, and other products watchers use. In 2011, watchers spent $11.3 billion on wildlife watching equipment (food, feeders, nest boxes, baths, optics, camera equipment, etc.). A federal excise tax of just 5 percent would generate $565 million annually. Even a 1 percent excise tax would raise more than $100 million. That would make watchers, hunters, and anglers equals in the world of wildlife conservation.
Alternatively, a voluntary, collectable, $10 annual federal wildlife watching stamp, sold at wildlife refuges, state parks, nature centers, and wild bird stores, might be a small step in the right direction. At least it would give watchers an opportunity to support wildlife conservation. And I can't imagine any watcher objecting to that.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, West Virginia 26033 or by email at sshala...@aol.com.