Thank you, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to offer some observations.
Delta Waterfowl, for your background, is an international charity dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of waterfowl. Our constituency is the duck hunting community in both Canada and the United States but our remarks apply generally to the contributions of hunters, trappers, and anglers.
Our first observation with regard to your study of licensed hunting and trapping is that it's about time. I want to thank the standing committee for demonstrating the initiative to investigate the contributions that the sustainable use community makes to the environment and for making it a priority to enquire into this unique and symbiotic relationship.
The linkage between hunting, fishing, trapping, and environment and sustainable development is a relationship that bears study as a success story in stimulating investments to the environment from those who enjoy it. Hunting, fishing, and trapping are too often an afterthought portrayed as in conflict or as activities that need to be curtailed in some manner to achieve conservation and the environmental goals, and nothing could be further from the truth. That hunters, anglers, and trappers are the first and best conservationists is a statement that is uncontroversial within our community, one that invests more than any other segment of society in conservation. Yet we continue to endure simple-minded criticism from those within the anti-hunting and anti-use community who contribute little to the environment other than their attacks on the main investors in conservation.
There are a variety of ways to describe the relationship between the sustainable use community and the environment. Let's start with a few examples and some raw numbers.
The duck hunting community that supports our organization can lay claim to putting in place and supporting one of the oldest and most successful investments in the environment in North America. The United States federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, commonly known as duck stamps, are pictorial stamps produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service beginning in 1934 and serve as the federal U.S. licence for hunting migratory waterfowl. Since they were established in 1934 sales of federal duck stamps have generated more than $800 million, which were earmarked and have been used to purchase, or protect with easements, over six million acres of wetland habitat in the United States, including lands protected in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's national wildlife refuge system.
Waterfowl, of course, are not the only wildlife that benefit from the sale of these federal duck stamps. Numerous other bird, mammal, fish, reptile, and amphibian species rely on wetlands. One-third of the United States endangered and threatened species find food or shelter in refuges established using federal duck stamp funds. People have benefited more generally from the federal duck stamp. Hunters have places to enjoy their passion and other outdoor enthusiasts have places to hike, watch birds, photograph, and explore. The wetlands purify water supplies, store flood water, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, sequester carbon, and provide spawning areas for fish important to sport and commercial fisheries.
This model has been replicated time and time again. Almost every jurisdiction in North America now has funding that is generated from hunting, angling, and trapping licence sales and spent on the environment. In the United States, and Mark touched on these statistics, annual state hunting licence sales exceeded $764 million in 2009 and fishing licence sales were over $600 million. This model was imported into Canada in 1985 with the establishment of the Canadian wildlife habitat conservation stamp required to duck hunt and invested by Wildlife Habitat Canada in habitat projects.
These licence fees have been followed in the U.S. by the imposition of federal excise taxes on most hunting, angling, and shooting sports equipment. They were introduced in 1937 for wildlife and in 1950 for sport fishing, and now generate almost $400 million a year for conservation. Moreover, this baseline funding has provided matching funds that leverage even more public and private investments in conservation. These models have been in place for so long that they are literally taken for granted both by the sustainable use community, by our community, which constantly seeks to build on this investment, and by the non-hunting community who are largely unaware of this bedrock commitment to conservation and the environment.
In terms of investments in conservation, the sustainable use community goes from strength to strength building on these licence-based revenues with private philanthropy and volunteerism, and Rob touched on much of that.
A recent study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management and summarized in Scientific American found that hunters and bird-watchers were almost five times more likely than non-recreationists to carry out land stewardship. These dual hunter-bird-watchers were almost three times more likely than non-recreationists to donate money to conservation. The paper referred to them as conservation superstars.
Beyond the direct contributions of money and volunteer time, duck hunters contribute directly to the management of overabundant wildlife populations, as we are currently experiencing with Arctic nesting goose populations, snow geese and Ross’s geese. I would note that in doing so we are often met with opposition from anti-hunting groups that oppose science-based management while contributing nothing to the environment or conservation. Given the overwhelming importance of predation as a limiting factor for wildlife populations, trappers have a growing role in helping manage both game and endangered wildlife species.
It is also hunting and angling groups that are in the forefront of efforts to help build durable environmental policies and programs that integrate sustainable use, and to work within the resource and agricultural communities to accommodate and sustain wildlife and fish populations. I have presented to your committee before on our alternative land use services program and the national conservation plan, both efforts that are cost-shared with money from the hunting and fishing community.
To those within the sustainable use community, this extraordinary willingness to invest in conservation is second nature. ln part, it is enlightened and informed self-interest that drives the hunter to invest in conservation. The experience of hunting is a priority for us, and we give back in order to experience abundance in the field and thus contribute to research and production of wildlife.
Our organization was founded over a hundred years ago, and it became a research organization on the strength of a contribution from a philanthropist who committed to putting two ducks back in the air for every duck that he harvested in the fall.
This willingness to pay for environmental improvements stands in contrast to sectors of society less connected to environmental issues. A recent Nanos poll indicated that while 71% of Canadians said they support or somewhat support imposing new taxes on businesses that emit greenhouse gases, a minority, 37% to 41%, were willing to consider new taxes on gasoline and home heating oil.
The commitment to invest from the hunting, angling, and trapping communities springs from a deep emotional connection between the environment and the hunter, angler, and trapper. The commitment gives us a disproportionate need to give back after we take a duck to enjoy for the table. It is a unique connection, and the evidence suggests that this community is far more willing to contribute in time, money, and engagement in environmental conservation.
Thank you for this recognition. Your committee is well advised to study and reflect on this phenomenon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.