Do Something Special for Wildlife
Wildlife and the Outdoors
Doing Something Special for Wildlife
Ron Eakes, Wildlife Biologist
When most people think about doing something special to benefit wildlife, they think about putting up a feeder or nest box in the back yard, planting a wildlife opening on their farm or hunting club, or even joining a conservation organization. Each of these actions has its own merits and rewards: colorful songbirds feeding just outside the living room window, the anticipation of the bluebird eggs hatching in the birdhouse on your fencerow, seeing a doe with spotted fawns feeding on the clover you planted two months before, or simply getting the next edition of the magazine published by your favorite conservation group. However, few people think about the simple act of purchasing a hunting or fishing license as helping the wildlife populations of Alabama. This is especially true for those who don’t hunt or fish.
In Alabama, the mission of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is to manage, protect, conserve and enhance the wildlife and aquatic resources of Alabama for the sustainable benefit of Alabamians. This mission includes all wildlife, game and non-game, and freshwater fisheries. However, the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation is not funded in the same way as most other state government agencies. Funds to operate the Division’s programs do not come from General Fund monies generated from state income or sales taxes, even though hunting and fishing related activities generate between $50-60 million annually in state and local taxes. Funds to operate the Division come from the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses, along with some funds from the Federal Assistance Programs for Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration. Funds for these programs are generated through excise taxes on the purchase of hunting, shooting and fishing equipment and motorboat fuels. These funds are collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and allocated to each state based on the size of the state and, most importantly, the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold in the that state annually.
Some may believe that, “all they care about are deer, turkeys and bass. They’re only worried about those animals that can be hunted or fished for.” Remember, responsibility for all non-game species are also handled by the Division. People who hunt or fish also enjoy seeing or hearing songbirds or other forms of wildlife when they are in the field. The Division has been engaged in extensive efforts to restore Eastern bluebirds, nesting populations of bald eagles and brown pelicans, as well as monitoring shorebird, wading bird and migratory songbird populations.
In addition to the enforcement of hunting and fishing laws, the Division is also involved in wildlife and fisheries research, monitoring and managing endangered species, conducting environmental education, firearms safety and education, assisting private landowners and/or government agencies in managing wildlife found on their lands, and operating 35 public wildlife management areas, wildlife refuges and sanctuaries that encompass over 800,000 acres.
Although the traditional use of wildlife management areas is to provide public hunting, they also provide suitable homes for untold numbers of species that are not hunted. Case in point: if 100 acres of wetlands were purchased and managed to provide hunting for ducks and geese, the only animals that would benefit would be those that the land was purchased for, right? Absolutely not!
Other species potentially benefiting from a project of this sort would be bald eagles, ospreys, shore birds such as sandpipers and plovers; wading birds such as egrets, herons and bitterns; not to mention furbearing species like beavers, river otters, mink, muskrats and raccoons. Even the less than cuddly species like frogs, salamanders, turtles and snakes would also take advantage of the management of these wetlands. This is only one example of the multiple species benefits that are created when lands are managed specifically with wildlife in mind.
So, the next time you think about doing something special for wildlife, consider purchasing a hunting and/or fishing license. Your contribution will greatly assist in managing our state’s wildlife resources.
For more information on projects and programs that benefit Alabama’s wildlife, contact the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (Enforcement, Fisheries or Wildlife) at 64 North Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130,