Fewer Hunters Means Fewer Conservation Dollars In Illinois
Conservation officials in Illinois are trying to overcome a near half-century of declining participation in hunting — that's because revenue raised from hunting helps pay for conservation programs.
Jared Duquette manages the Wildlife and Hunter Heritage Program for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He said the trend dates back to the 1970s because farmland and urban sprawl have limited habitats, and because more people are choosing city life.
“What we are realizing is less people are even exposed to being around a squirrel, let alone picking up a bow or a shotgun and going out and actually hunting and harvesting an animal,” Duquette said.
Declining participation in hunting is a national trend. According to a 2016 survey from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about 5% of Americans over age 16 hunt. That’s about half of what it was a half century ago, and it’s trending downward.
As state revenue declines from hunting licenses and the sale of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, Duquette said that's forced the state to cut back on conversation efforts.
“If we are doing things like prairie burns for various turtle species, silvery salamanders in wetlands, these types of species that are imperiled in Illinois and will suffer if we don’t have the money to do actual habitat management for these species,” Duquette said.
Illinois received $13.1 million from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018 through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. That money comes from the sale of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment and requires the state provide a 25% match. Duquette said that funding has been declining annually due to declining participation.
Duquette said the IDNR is looking for new revenue streams from outdoor activities that are becoming more popular such as hiking.
“Those discussions will likely happen in the future because we know going forward that our surveys show, yes, more people are engaging in ways with nature that are not hunting,” he said.
The state is also promoting its Learn to Hunt program.
Illinois has about 257,000 registered hunters. Duquette said that number has been dropping about 2% annually over the last decade.
The first weekend of firearm deer hunting season in Illinois begins Friday.
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