The recently released report, "Hunting in America: An Economic Force for Conservation," places annual retail sales directly associated with hunting in Alabama at $1,189,125,204. The total multiplier effect rippling through the economy as a result of hunters spending amounts over $1.8 billion annually in our state. Yes, that’s billion, with a "B."
So, what drives this huge economic engine? Hunting opportunity depends upon abundant populations of game animals and access to affordable places to hunt as well as reasonable seasons and limits. Alabama has historically been very liberal with seasons and limits compared to most other states, while being more restrictive on legal methods of hunting than some states.
The fact that Alabama ranks seventh nationally in the number of resident hunters is evidence of a strong hunting-related culture as well as an essential underlying base of abundant wildlife populations. The abundant wildlife resources now enjoyed by all Alabamians did not happen by chance. The State of Alabama, through the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, has carried out hunter-funded wildlife management and protection for over 75 years. This has restored deer, turkey and many other species, hunted and non-hunted, from the brink of extinction.
The foundational principles guidingthe Alabama hunters are managing wildlife resources, established as a matter of practice many decades ago, have served the state and its hunters, landowners and citizens well. First and foremost, the well-being of the resource must be considered. Management of wildlife populations and habitats, based on sound science rather than politics, is absolutely essential to sustaining the resource base upon which hunting and other wildlife-associated recreations depend.
The other key principle is, "Doing that which is in the greatest good of the most people in the long run." This phrase, coined by the famous early wildlife conservationist Gifford Pinchot, captures the essence of the North American Model of Wildlife Management. In America, each state holds the title to all game and fish resources, and manages them for the benefit of all the people. Only through adherence to this guiding principle can Alabama or any other state sustain the base of hunters who pay for wildlife management and protection through their license purchases and related federal excise taxes on hunting arms and ammunition
Principle-centered decisions and actions stand the test of time. Aesop’s Fables, the ever-popular lessons on how to behave in the world, have endured through the centuries since 600 B.C. Most people fondly remember the childhood lessons of "The Tortoise and the Hare," "A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing," "The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg" and others. With the simple stories and the sound morals taught, the fables illustrate ethics, character and leadership.
Like most principle-centered things, the lessons are self-evident and undeniable: "Appearances are often deceiving," "honesty is the best policy," "do not count your chickens before they are hatched," "slow and steady wins the race," "one good turn deserves another," "try to please all and you end by pleasing none," and others.
"The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg" is especially applicable to natural resources management. In fact, this ancient fable is the basis for effectiveness in all matters, according to best-selling author and modern-day world-renowned effectiveness expert Stephen R. Covey. Covey characterized this natural law as "Production/Production Capacity Balance."
This fable is the story of the poor farmer made rich by his pet goose that lays a golden egg every day. The farmer becomes incredibly wealthy; it all seems too good to be true. But with his increasing wealth comes greed and impatience. Unable to wait day after day for the golden eggs, the farmer kills the goose to try to get them all at once. When he cuts the goose open, he finds it empty. There are no golden eggs, and now there is no way to get any. The farmer has destroyed the goose that produced them.
"Within this fable is a natural law, a principle - the basic definition of effectiveness. True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose). If you adopt a pattern that focuses on golden eggs and neglects the goose, you will soon be without the asset that produces golden eggs. On the other hand, if you only take care of the goose with no aim toward golden eggs, you soon won’t have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose. Effectiveness lies in the balance," according to Covey.
"To maintain the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capacity) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness. It balances short term with long term."
Is this not the true meaning of conservation? - Wise use of natural resources, with stewardship for the future. After all, the ultimate judges of our success or failure will be our grandchildren and their children after them. Will there be abundant, healthy wildlife populations and habitats for them to enjoy? Will there be inclusive opportunities for all kinds of hunters? Let’s hope so.
Corky Pugh is the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.