NWF View - Showing Our Support Through Teaming with Wildlife

12-01-1997 // Mark Van Putten

Another holiday season is upon us and with it, the traditional reflection on the special gifts with which we are all blessed--and those that we can pass on to our loved ones. If the scenes depicted on holiday cards are any indication, the gift of wildlife is among the most cherished. And this year, we all have an unusual opportunity to see that it is shared with future generations.

The opportunity comes in the form of an initiative called Teaming with Wildlife. Now being debated in Congress, the measure would make substantial new resources available primarily for the more than 1,800 species of wildlife in the country that are neither hunted nor fished.

The wildlife that will benefit include myriad songbirds and other migratory bird species whose populations are diminishing, critters as fragile as the butterfly or as cunning as the raccoon. In short: many of the wildlife that so often grace our holiday cards, that provide our first youthful insights into nature, and that sustain the interest and awe of bird-watchers, hikers, hunters, outdoor recreationists, photographers and naturalists. If you have seen fewer of them lately, or watched their habitat disappear, you understand their urgent need.

It is no wonder then that the National Wildlife Federation is leading the conservation community in working with the broad coalition the initiative has attracted to win Teaming with Wildlife┬┤s congressional approval. This is a measure that deserves the backing of all who love wildlife--of any kind.

NWF and its many state affiliates who actively support Teaming with Wildlife have joined what may well be the largest united action in conservation history, now numbering more than 2,400 organizations nationwide. It includes more than 500 outdoor-recreation businesses that understand that the future of their industry depends on the health of wildlife.

As described further on page 16, Teaming with Wildlife would, in essence, make as much as $350 million available annually for the benefit of nongame wildlife. Decisions on how to spend this money would be made on the state level where local people best know the wildlife and natural places that are in the greatest need of attention. And the initiative provides flexibility in how those funds could be used: for habitat conservation and acquisition, vitally needed research, wildlife education and the building or upkeep of hiking trails and viewing areas.

Teaming with Wildlife is based on the success of the 60-year-old Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts under which sportsmen and sportswomen pay a modest excise tax on the fishing and hunting equipment they use, providing money to agencies to fund programs for game species. In short, those who enjoy wildlife resources contribute to their support. Building on that idea, Teaming with Wildlife adopts the premise that it is now time for all of us who enjoy the world of wildlife, game or nongame, to pay our own way to help assure that the conservation of those wild places and wild things that bring us so much pleasure is not left merely to chance.

The funds to make this possible would come from an excise tax of 5 percent or less on such things as the camping and hiking gear, the binoculars, the cameras and the birdseed purchased by outdoor enthusiasts. On average, this important contribution to wildlife conservation would cost purchasers less than $10 a year.

This holiday season, as we decide what we may give to others, we all have a special chance to give our support to nature through Teaming with Wildlife. As you choose a gift from suppliers of camping or outdoor equipment, ask them to join the progressive businesses already supporting Teaming with Wildlife. Let them know you will be watching for their response and that you expect them to respect nature and your patronage by supporting this important initiative.

By helping to build the groundswell of support for Teaming with Wildlife, you will be giving a real holiday gift to nature and to the future. And perhaps by next holiday season we will all have a new conservation victory to celebrate.

Mark Van Putten
President & Chief Executive Officer
National Wildlife Federation

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