Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I'm nursing a bit of a cold so you'll excuse me if I have to go to my water from time to time.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about one of my favourite subjects and one of my greatest pleasures, hunting. In a province of less than a million people, Nova Scotia has a large number of residents who participate in hunting and trapping as well as angling.
The Nova Scotia government requires those who wish to hunt and trap to take an appropriate training course in order to obtain an outdoor identification number known as the wildlife resources card. Over 100,000 people in the province possess one of these cards, and most of these people are attached in some way or another to 100,000 people who support them: a wife, a husband, a boyfriend, a girlfriend. These folks added together make for a large portion of the provincial population who directly support hunting.
All of us are direct descendants of successful hunters. Humanity survived on this planet because of the skills of hunters, and this remains a fact today in many places on the Earth. Hunting, fishing, and gathering are still activities for survival on a day-to-day basis around the world, and that includes Canada, as many of our first nations rely on the skills of their hunters for subsistence hunting and on non-native hunters to provide a variety of wild food for the family table, food that is free of feedlot antibiotics and growth hormones.
I congratulate you on the motion to study and examine the cultural significance of licensed hunting and trapping in Canada, a subject by far under-studied and far less understood by many in urban Canada. Perhaps this committee will help shed light on the huge impact these activities have on the economy and the culture of Canada.
Let me first say that hunters, trappers, and anglers pay for wildlife conservation in Canada. It is we who reach into our pockets and pay for the privilege to use the natural landscape of Canada and harvest its bounty. We reached so deep into our pockets to spend on these activities that we brought out $13.5 billion the last time a survey was done. In addition, $1 billion is generated by the outfitters of Canada. These are the men and women who operate lodges for hunters to enjoy and hunt out of, and to top off the economic figure, trapping is valued at $700 million in Canada. So that is over $15 billion a year in an economy in only a four-month season.
In Nova Scotia, hunters and trappers are levied an additional five dollars over and above the cost of their licences. This is a wildlife habitat conservation stamp. In the past season, that stamp raised over $275,000. These dollars are spent by a committee led by hunters on wildlife education, research, and the purchase of land. In the past 15 years, as an example, the fund has raised $2 million, given directly to university students to help them with their research on wildlife species. It's important to note that many of these species are animals that we're not hunting. That is what I call economic sustainability.
As a nation, we have been harvesting the land for fur and meat for hundreds of years and continue to do so in a sustainable harvest. It was not always that way. At one point in our natural history, we had a near disaster when commercial hunting almost destroyed the abundance of wildlife by over-killing for money. One hundred years ago we lost the passenger pigeon. It became extinct because of food hunting and feathers for ladies' hats. We almost lost our wild herds of bison and elk. They were killed to feed workers building the railroads in Canada and the United States. That calamity was stopped in time by sport hunters and some enlightened politicians. Two to be noticed are Louis St. Laurent and Teddy Roosevelt. They recognized the problem and did something about it, and that was the North American model of wildlife management. It was developed and grew out of that intervention. The animals did come back, some species in better shape than they had been before the commercial hunt.
Today this model of wildlife management is hailed as the best in the world, and at its centre are hunters, hunters' money, and hunters' regulated harvesting. Hunters and trappers have never had to go to any level of government looking for capital money to get a hunting area. Many activities Canadians participate in require large amounts of money to enjoy, and they could not take place without buildings like hockey rinks, gymnasiums, soccer fields, and of course, spending millions of dollars to landscape a forest and turn it into a golf course. For us, it's just the fields and streams we need. In fact, hunters have become the leaders in wetland conservation in North America.
Hunting and trapping are very important activities to the people of Nova Scotia and Canada. I know that some members of this committee have spoken out publicly against the decision to study hunting and trapping. Please don't slough this off as being unimportant. The lessons learned by hunters through bringing some animal species from the brink of extinction may hold some knowledge for you in learning how to deal with other problems and issues in the natural world and may indeed be the blueprint for the recovery of some of these species.
Too often, hunters and trappers are marginalized because of what we do. I speak of taking animals for food from the wild. When I do this, I have a greater appreciation for those wild things than most people and I learn from the animals. I strongly suggest that you would be very wise to listen to the people who present to you at this committee and learn from them. For a stable harvest and a sustainable economy leads to a culture of caring for wildlife and its habitat.
It's really too bad that we're not all hunters. I guess I'm just one of the lucky ones.