Saturday is the 33rd annual observance of National Hunting and Fishing Day.
President Nixon dedicated this day for Americans to recognize the positive impact generations of sportsmen have made for conservation.
Hunting and fishing are an integral part of America's rich history and culture. What was once necessary to survive, hunting and fishing are now two very popular forms of recreation. Today, roughly 18 million hunters and 50 million fishers enjoy the outdoors and generate roughly $70 billion in revenue each year.
Because of sportsmen, America's wildlife management system is the most successful and envied system in the world. America is home to more duck, geese, elk, deer, turkeys and other wildlife than at any time in our nation's history. This is the result of sportsmen who demanded self-imposed seasons, bag limits and licenses.
Although sportsmen comprise a minority of the population, through hunting and fishing licenses sportsmen contribute, on average, 75 percent of state wildlife department budgets. This money is used to benefit both game and non-game species, such as songbirds. Additionally, sportsmen's dollars also fund wildlife refuges, hiking trails, habitat, education programs, state conservation officer salaries, scientific studies and other conservation programs.
Sportsmen are clearly the true conservationists and stewards of wildlife. With a hands-on connection to the outdoors, studies indicate sportsmen have a greater appreciation and understanding of wildlife and conservation issues such as habitat destruction, pollution and wildlife population dynamics.
In addition to purchasing hunting and fishing licenses and habitat stamps, outdoorsmen have also established their own organizations such as Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Ted Nugent United Sportsmen of America, FishAmerica Foundation and hundreds of other national, state and regional conservation organizations. These organizations donate millions of dollars each year to purchase habitat, fund wildlife studies, establish scholarship funds for young people interested in studying the wildlife sciences and numerous other conservation efforts.
With millions of members in private conservation organizations, sportsmen contribute much more than their dollars. Volunteer sportsmen also contribute their time and expertise to ensure future generations of sportsmen and non-sportsmen are able to enjoy America's wildlife. Sportsmen assist state wildlife departments in teaching safety courses, build and maintain archery ranges and clean up streams and plant trees.
In conjunction with sportsmen, private landowners are to be commended. Because they permit hunters and fisherman to utilize their property, private landowners are directly responsible for tens of millions of safe, fun, quality family recreation hours as well as creating an optimum condition for America's wildlife to thrive. Private landowners are every bit as much the stewards and conservationists as hunters and fishers.
Because of outdoorsmen and private landowners, these truly are the "good old days" of hunting and fishing. The opportunities to create lasting memories with your child or other loved ones are there for the making. There is ample public and private ground for Americans to experience the great outdoors. The financial cost of getting involved in either hunting or fishing is nominal when compared to other recreational activities and pursuits.
America's outdoorsmen and private landowners have created the world's most successful wildlife management system. For that, they should be recognized and applauded today just as they were thirty-three years ago when President Nixon created this most auspicious date -- National Hunting and Fishing Day.
Jeff Christensen is an avid sportsmen and the National Northwest Region Director for Ted Nugent United Sportsmen of America (TNUSA).
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