Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight today held a hearing to examine the science used to inform wildlife management decisions that involve hunting.

“As a hunter who was first introduced to the sport by my father when I was 6 years old, I am personally aware of the positive impacts of managed hunts in America and overseas,” said Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA).  “However, there may be some who are not aware of these positive impacts and how the science of hunting assists species conservation and management.”

In addition to hunting on federal, state, and local public lands, privately owned game ranches also enable hunting of specific species of animals, including some that are either endangered or extinct internationally. Witnesses today discussed how these ranches play an important part in the effort to boost the overall numbers of certain species, including their reintroduction into the wild. Existing federal regulations that authorized limited hunting of these species have been challenged in federal courts, resulting in a January 2012 final rule issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service that poses new challenges to these game ranches, ultimately impacting species conservation.

Discussing the potential role of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in foreign species conservation, and particularly that of endangered species, Dr. Al Maki, the Conservation Committee Chairman at Safari Club International, said the FWS “has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand.” Dr. Maki continued, “the Service has relied on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to resolutely refuse to allow U.S. hunters to play a role in the conservation of foreign endangered species… This arbitrary misuse of ESA authority must end.”

Dr. Daniel Ashe, Director of FWS acknowledged that “Hunting and angling organizations contribute millions of dollars and countless hours of labor to various conservation causes each year.”  Dr. Ashe praised hunters and anglers for playing a “critical role in conserving the natural wonders of the country for all Americans.”  Since the establishment of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs, hunters and anglers have paid more than $11 billion in user fees on purchases of firearms, ammunition, archery, fishing and boating equipment.  “With these funds,” Dr. Ashe noted, “the states have developed science-based wildlife management capacity.”

Mr. Nick Wiley, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, discussed an example of one such effort:  “In 1967, the American alligator was listed as an endangered species because of unregulated market hunting. Today alligators are abundant throughout Florida, providing plentiful hunting opportunities. This remarkable recovery is largely due to effective and exemplary science-based regulation and management. Public hunting of alligators has been allowed in Florida since 1988, and total harvests now average more than 20,000 per year. License and permit fees paid by alligator hunters provide the funding for the science and management that insures sustainable alligator management programs. Moreover, Florida’s economy benefits by more than $14 million dollars annually as a result of alligator harvests and associated industry.”

Chairman Broun concluded: “Hunting generates significant revenues through taxes on hunting equipment, duck stamps, and other hunting permits.  The duck stamp program alone is approaching $1 billion in total funds for conservation management, land acquisitions, and research. This research includes extensive studies of animal populations, threats to their survival, and species survival rates.  All of this research helps ensure that society has a solid understanding of how best to manage a species to its highest sustainable level. Hunters also spend money throughout the economy through airfare, lodging, and food.  This means jobs for Americans.”

The following witnesses testified today:
The Honorable Daniel Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Dr. Al Maki, Chairman, Conservation Committee, Safari Club International
Dr. Stuart Pimm, Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
Mr. Nick Wiley, Executive Director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission