Conservationists Work to Recruit PA Hunters, Fishers

By Andrea Sears of Public News Service
for The Post

HARRISBURG PA – A decline in hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania is having an ironic effect, advocates claim: it’s imperiling the state’s efforts to conserve animal wildlife and their habitats.

Most state wildlife management is funded by people who buy hunting and fishing licenses, and by taxes imposed on firearms and ammunition. Those fees reportedly make up more than half of state Game Commission revenue. The fewer people participating, “the lower funds derived to fund conservation,” says Samantha Pedder, director of operations for the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports.

So “the loss of a hunter on the landscape is detrimental to conservation in Pennsylvania,” Pedder contends. She adds that participation in hunting has been declining since the 1980s.

Efforts to reverse the decline are under way. In Pennsylvania, the commission has taken steps to promote hunting with what it calls hunter-focused “R3” – recruit, retain, and reactivate – activities. Pedder is working with Artemis, a project of the National Wildlife Federation, to help raise the number of women who hunt and fish.

The mythical Greek goddess Artemis is the protector of the hunt and of nature.

Efforts in Pennsylvania include relaxing the state ban on Sunday hunting, and holding mentored outings for young people and women who are outdoor first-timers.

There’s more than money involved, according to Aaron Kindle, director of sporting advocacy at the wildlife federation. Encouraging more people to go hunting and fishing, he says, is vital to keeping conservation efforts alive because participants also provide vital observations about wildlife habitat.

“Hunters and anglers see the effects of management on the ground,” Kindle notes. “They also see the effects of changing climate and changing landscapes, maybe more acutely than anyone.” Many return to the same spot year after year, and end up offering insider views of what’s happening in the landscape.

The commission, and partners like the federation and its Artemis program, Pedder reports, “have done a lot to try to revisit how hunting occurs in the state, to keep people active and give them more time to be outdoors.”