State and Federal Governments Should Do More To Preserve Non-Game Wildlife
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ducks and deer for hunters and trout and bass for anglers get far more federal money than other species even though birdwatchers and wildlife photographers outnumber sportsmen, a conservation group said Wednesday.
″Ninety percent of our wildlife species are non-game, but just 10 percent of our wildlife dollars are spent to understand them,″ said Defenders of Wildlife President Joyce M. Kelly, who called for new taxes to fund an ″affirmative action plan″ to preserve non-game species.
″For the most part there are only token efforts being made to address the real needs of our non-game wildlife,″ she said.
Citing a 1980 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, she said 93.2 million Americans some form of ″non-consumptive wildlife use″ such as birdwatching or photography, while 42.9 million Americans hunted and 17.4 million fished.
Yet, she said, the Fish and Wildlife Service has earmarked only $1.39 million for research about non-game species compared with $12.57 million for game species research.
According to Albert M. Manville, a wildlife biologist for the group, more than 90 percent of the 3,700 vertebrate species in the United States are considered non-game.
The populations of such species as the common loon, wood stork and red- shouldered hawk are declining, he said, and money is needed to determine if they are endangered and in need of protection.
Yet, he said, the Reagan administration asked Congress not to appropriate money this year under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Noting that money has never been appropriated under the 1980 act, he called for new taxes and fees to raise $50 million a year for the program, initially.
Among the proposals that should be considered, he said, are raising taxes on minerals produced on federal lands, increasing fees for leasing ski areas and utility rights of way on public land, boosting fees for oil extraction and use of off-road vehicles and creating an excise tax on equipment used by wildlife photographers and birdwatchers.
Sara Vickerman, a regional director for the organization in Oregon, said a survey showed that state non-game conservation programs vary widely and need more federal money. Many depend on voluntary donations on state income tax forms, which are declining as check-offs for more causes are added to the forms, she said.
David C. Klinger, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, acknowledged that ″not enough is being done on the federal level″ for non- game wildlife. But he noted that many programs designed to benefit game species also benefit non-game species.
And, in the agency’s defense, he said ″response from the environmental community was very lukewarm″ when in 1983 the agency listed 18 possible fund raising ideas, including new taxes and fees.
″Up until now it’s been the hunters and fishermen who’ve forked over the dollars and we just haven’t seen that same sort of spirit from the non- consumptive users,″ he said.
Manville said the Defenders of Wildlife has been joined by eight other groups in support of stable funding for the non-game act.
The eight are: the Sierra Club, the Wildlife Society, the Wilderness Society, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Wildlife Management Institute, the National Wildlife Federation, the Humane Society of the United States and and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.