by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, September 5, 2009.)
Hunting has many dedicated opponents today who would like to see it outlawed.
Banning hunting is a quick slide down
a slope to many unintended consequences.
If this was once a hypothetical issue, it is no longer with President Obama’s appointment of Cass Sunstein head or “czar” of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Just two years ago Sunstein said, “We ought to ban hunting, I suggest, if there isn’t a purpose other than sport and fun. That should be against the law. It’s time now.”
Fortunately the federal government does not make most hunting regulations. But since federal agencies are notorious for meddling in state affairs, Sunstein’s desire must be taken seriously. Because he’s the top federal regulatory officer, and because he says, “It’s time now,” I look for him to try some kind of action against hunting.
Clearly, the reason state agencies regulate hunting is not to provide “sport and fun.” They’re in the science business, not the entertainment business. They manage wildlife populations for society by licensing hunters to kill surplus game animals, a function that’s both challenging and essential.
Yet the aims of individual hunters differ from those of the game agencies. Hunters do hunt for sport and fun. Would Sunstein rather hire government agents to work as animal eradication officers? If so, he’d have to make dead level sure they don’t enjoy their work.
What would happen if hunting were banned? Two things, and both are big. First, the economic impact would be immediate and devastating. Second, the environment would suffer a tragic blow. The economic impact is the subject for today.
If Cass Sunstein got his way, tens of thousands of jobs would be lost and with them, money that sustains wildlife.
Take a look at the high visibility Cabelas catalog. A quick glance shows that hunters are passionate and willing to spend money. Not only that, enormous entrepreneurial energy exists within the hunting community. Hunters are constantly inventing gadgets to use in their pursuits – marketable ideas that spawn many small businesses.
These products are sold not only in the Cabela’s catalogs, but also in catalogs from Bass Pro Shops, Midway USA, and more than a dozen others, plus local shops nationwide.
If hunting were outlawed, Sidney, Nebraska (headquarters for Cabelas) could become a ghost town. Reverberations would reach more than 30 cities where Cabelas has retail stores. Add in more than 50 cities where Bass Pro Shops has stores. The damage to these communities would be dramatic and serious. Satellite businesses would suffer. Tax revenues would decline. Public services would shrink. Unemployment rolls would swell.
And that’s just the beginning. If hunting were banned, thousands and thousands of families who depend on hunting – from outfitters and guides to local taxidermists – would lose their livelihood.
The economic activity of thousands of photographers, artists, writers, wildlife biologists, forest managers, (the list is endless) would cease. Thousands of small family businesses would close up shop, affecting the economies of towns small and large.
The flow of billions of dollars to state wildlife agencies would be turned off like a faucet, as hunting license revenues diminish to zero. And the pipe leading to the faucet would be drained.
It doesn’t stop there. Pittman-Robertson funds – excise taxes paid by hunters on all sporting rifles, shotguns, ammunition, and archery equipment – would dry up. Those are dollars collected and distributed to the states to pay for the cost of wildlife management.
Animals would feel the effects because that money benefits all wildlife (plants and animals included), not just game species. So banning hunting would hurt the entire food chain, from egrets to eagles.
Not only that, receiving Pittman-Robertson money prevents states from diverting dollars raised for wildlife to other purposes. Without that safeguard, state budgets would be pressured to reduce further the investment in wildlife habitat.
Banning hunting is a quick slide down a slope to many unintended consequences. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of the economic side of the issue. The bottom line is that if hunting were banned people would suffer, and so would animals.
If the hunting economy is ruined, the environment will follow. That’s the subject for my next column.