Yes, we all should pay to support the outdoors
Why is MassWildlife, a state agency with a wide-ranging and important mandate, expected to be largely self-funded? In the front-page article “Wild but not free” (April 28), Billy Baker offers the question, “Is it time for everyone to pay for the outdoors?” The answer is yes, of course.
We pay for pretty much everything else out of our taxes, and I do understand the history of the wildlife conservation funding structure, but surely our elected officials are capable of updating it given the grave importance of keeping our natural spaces healthy and balanced. Just a little innovative thinking is needed, and if Governor Baker really cares about wildlife and conservation, he and his team will make sure the money is found.
However, expanding hunting areas and days allowed when it is a well-known fact that the number of hunters in our state is decreasing would serve only to appease the dwindling population of hunters and therefore would not significantly bolster revenue. We also don’t want the remaining hunters prowling around even more frequently, especially with crossbows that don’t announce their presence, when more people than ever are out exploring and enjoying our wilderness areas.
Conservation is a much more important and complex endeavor than most people realized when this agency was created, and Massachusetts must move from thinking small about it to thinking intelligently.
Hunting on Sunday? Crossbows? Beware.
In discussing sources of additional revenue for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife besides raising licensing fees, Billy Baker writes, “The agency is also not opposed to three measures that hunters have consistently asked for, changes that would require legislative approval but could boost license sales: allowing hunting on Sundays, allowing the use of crossbows during archery season, and reducing the bowhunting buffer zone around homes.”
I am not a fan of hunting, although I am appreciative of land acquisition and the conservation efforts of the agency. What I think should not occur is hunting on Sunday. Hikers, bird-watchers, and others who enjoy these areas should not have to fear for their lives.
My daughter and I live in a rural area near acres of state and land trust properties. On one day, an arrow in apparent pursuit of a deer whizzed by my daughter’s head while she was walking with her toddler.
While this is probably not a frequent occurrence, there ought to be a fear-free day for both humans and wildlife.
It’s absurd to fund wildlife conservation with licenses to people who hunt wildlife
Re “Wild but not free”: The current system for funding wildlife conservation needs to change. It makes no sense to fund it with the hunting license fees from the very same hunters who shoot migratory birds, just 200 yards from my house on Ipswich Bay. They don’t even eat the ducks; they just collect the feathers. These are the very same birds that we bird-watchers cherish.
So the hunters surveyed agree to increase their license fees from $22.50 to $40, so long as their hunting is extended to include Sundays, plus crossbows, with reduced buffer zones around homes? No, thank you. We’re nervous enough as it is with the 200-yard buffer zone.
We are awakened early in the morning by blasts from 10-gauge shotguns. The birds appear to be frantic, including those that are protected, while we, the nonhunters, have no voice under this present system. We are more than willing to participate in the funding of our precious wildlife resource.
Note that general public already contributes much to MassWildlife
Billy Baker’s article suggests that wildlife conservation in Massachusetts relies mainly on sales of licenses to people who hunt and fish. Baker also seems to support the notion that it is time for the general public to step up and pay their share of land acquisition through payment for access permits.
Baker should have noted that the general public, on average, already pays for about 60 percent of land acquisition by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife. These funds come from the annual bond bill that the Legislature provides for environmental agencies to acquire land. This is taxpayers’ money.
Residents of Massachusetts are offered an opportunity, at the end of their tax forms, to make a donation to the division’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. These funds help the division protect these species and their habitat on public and private land across the state.
Further, the division partners, financially, with private conservation organizations, municipal conservation commissions, federal agencies, and private and commercial landowners to acquire Wildlife Management Areas, often at prices below assessed valuation.
Joseph S. Larson
The writer is a professor emeritus of natural resource conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.