The first days of our waterfowl seasons usually produce lots of surprises — some good, some not so good.
Terrific news came during summer’s first days when the May Breeding Count Survey was published, showing U.S. and Canadian waterfowl biologists counted more breeding ducks than any time in the survey’s 55-year history.
Saturday, where hunters found water, they found ducks. Lots of ducks.
The not-so-good comes in a recent Ducks Unlimited report that condensed the data complied by several federal agencies. The gist shows dramatic wetland losses across the United States, including a continuing decline in Louisiana’s coastal marshes.
So that’s nothing new for our state, but it is new for most other areas in our country. New, too, is that folks like Rob Southwick and his researchers at Southwick Associates help quantify those losses, like the fact that a reduction in quality wetlands in our country can directly affect jobs and the U.S. economy.
For years, and using Southwick’s research, we’ve documented the fact that hunting and fishing in Louisiana supports 63,000 jobs and produces something in the neighborhood of $480 million in state taxes.
For the country, it’s more than 1.6 million jobs and $25 billion annually in federal, state and local taxes.
So, it’s not such a stretch to think that reduction in habitat quality leads to a reduction in fish and game that leads to downturns in our outdoors’ economic engine.
And with dramatic reductions in federal funding for programs that support what most of you reading this like to do, it’s likely that this engine will be running on one less cylinder in the near future.
That’s why Ducks Unlimited boss Dale Hall’s most recent appeal is legitimate: “Everyone who cares about wetlands, wildlife, and the health of our nation’s environment and economy should contact their members of Congress and urge them to support funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Wetlands Reserve Program, and Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“We agree,” Hall continued, “that the deficit must be controlled and our nation’s debt must be reduced, but Congress should avoid slashing funding for conservation programs that produce a positive return on investment for our nation’s economy.”
Again, the point here is that federal and state governments use what we do to fund so many other programs that it couldn’t be listed here because that would take up too much space. Demanding that some of what we pay in taxes alone — not to mention the taxes collected from the 1.6 million jobholders around the country — should go to supporting the activities we love is not asking too much.
In fact, it should demand that we make demands on our elected officials for a return on our investment.