“I can think of no generation of scientists that has faced a greater challenge than we confront today, for no other generation has stood at the crossroads between the continued existence of the Earth’s biological diversity and an irrevocable catastrophe to the biota.” — Michael J. Novacek, American Museum of Natural History vice president and provost
Stephen Meyer, in his 2006 book, “The End of the Wild,” flatly states that the battle for biodiversity has been lost. The 3,000 species destroyed annually when he was writing is moving rapidly toward tens of thousands extinguished each year. He laments, “Like it or not, we can no longer talk about conserving nature, only managing what is left.” He implores us to act heroically to save what we can. The consensus is that half of the species on Earth will have been destroyed by humans by the end of this century.
The rapid disappearance of species is ranked as one of the planet’s gravest environmental worries, surpassing pollution, global warming and thinning of the ozone layer, according to a survey of 400 scientists commissioned by New York’s American Museum of Natural History.
One only has to look at the 34 percent die-off of bees every year, the white-nosed bat syndrome coming our way with 95 percent mortality, 3 million acres of prairie in Wisconsin 50 years ago reduced to 13,000 acres, and Wisconsin forests strip-mined of life.
It has come to this: The secretary of the Department of Natural Resources is a high school graduate with no scientific or experiential background. She and the Natural Resources Board are a function of cronyism appointment, placed there to facilitate wildlife killing and environmental exploitation. The Conservation Congress, adviser to the DNR, is what it has been for 80 years — a killing bulldozer in overdrive. The legislators, who primarily care about being re-elected, are in the pocket of the most active lobbyists for those who profit by devastating our commons.
The good news is that the demographics have changed dramatically. Wildlife watching has become the most popular outdoor activity in Wisconsin, growing at 8 percent per year, and doubling in the past decade to over 3 million. Despite desperate DNR efforts, hunting interest has declined 1 percent per year in the same time period. In 2006 the National Audubon Society surveyed economic impacts of wildlife watching by state. U.S. Fish and Wildlife surveyed hunting economic impacts. In Wisconsin wildlife watchers brought 11 times more revenue than hunters to state tax coffers — $111 million for wildlife watching vs. $10 million for hunting. Our wildlife lovers generated $91 million in federal taxes, while even the drastic lengthening of killing seasons brought a mere $45 million.
The DNR hunting, trapping and fishing licenses in 2009-2010 generated $67.7 million. It takes all that and $33 million more to run the bureaucracy of licensing, registering, and policing all that torture, murder and mayhem.
Our Department of Natural Destruction must be restructured and democratized. Wildlife watchers are citizens too and we deserve the right to direct our revenue and have fair say. Yet hunters are in full control, cementing their exclusive power going forward, with the following bills:
• AB 104 mandates three members of the Natural Resources Board must have seven of 10 previous years of active hunting licenses and the fourth must be from agriculture to ensure hunter/trapper control of the board.
• SB 119 mandates that this corrupted Natural Resource Board appoint the secretary of the DNR to continue hunter stranglehold.
• SB 226 mandates that all future publicly purchased Stewardship lands must prioritize hunting and trapping or not be purchased; creates a 15-member hunter/trapper recruitment and retention board to bolster dwindling hunter ranks; introduces hunting, bow-hunting and trapping into all schools in Wisconsin for credit; and drops the backtags on hunters so trespassers cannot be identified. It creates a bounty on wildlife, dropping the price of trapping and hunting for new recruits and the mentors that initiate them to $4.
Here is some of the beauty we are destroying with our failure to act:
It is not just the harm done by killing license funding, it is the good not being done. When the Legislature replaces the insurmountable bias of killing licenses with general public funding and fair representation for all citizens, the role of wildlife-friendly tourism will expand exponentially. Minnesota is capitalizing on this positive trend with the wildly popular Bear Education Center and Wolf Center near Ely.
Aldo Leopold warned, when the Conservation Congress was set up, that general public funds should finance wildlife and nature in Wisconsin. He warned that the environmentalist, the wildlife lovers and the landowners should all be a part of a democratic system.
It is time for killing power to end and for us to act heroically to save what we can.
You can start by contacting your representatives about the above bills.
Sign a petition against slaughtering bears.
Christmas column: Did God leave a will and to whom did she entrust animals?
Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. email@example.com