A continued decline in hunting and angling has commissioners and staff at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission concerned about funding for natural resource management.
A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted the downward trend in hunting and fishing across the nation and the possible repercussions to wildlife and natural resources. Hunting participation peaked in the 1980s at about 17 million licensed hunters nationwide, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since then, it has seen a steady decrease to 11.5 million individuals who hunted last year.
The trend is mirrored by hunting and fishing license sales in Arkansas. In the last five years, Arkansas fishing license sales declined from 381,308 for residents and 138,508 for nonresidents to 312,758 and 119,747, respectively.
Hunting licenses saw a similar downward trend on the resident side, declining from 258,356 licensed resident hunters in fiscal year 2014 to 220,193 resident hunters in fiscal year 2019. The state’s fiscal year begins July 1.
Nonresident licensed hunters showed a small increase from 20,587 nonresident big-game hunters in fiscal year 2014 to 21,855 in fiscal year 2019 and from 40,784 to 47,622 nonresident small-game hunters in the same time frame.
The current North American model of wildlife management depends on hunters and anglers to fund the conservation of game and nongame species alike. In addition to license fees, hunters and anglers purchase certain hunting and fishing equipment which is taxed at the manufacturer level.
Additionally, the formula used by Fish and Wildlife to distribute tax revenue is based partially on the number of licensed hunters and anglers in each state.
“The loss of hunters and anglers has a double impact on conservation funding,” said Chris Colclasure, deputy director of outreach for Game and Fish. “That funding is critical for all wildlife.”
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