Hunters know, as a group, that no one has done more or is doing more to conserve and protect wildlife and our hunting traditions. They have collectively stepped up with funding, legislation and even physical labor when animal populations needed support. Now, when the numbers of hunters and shooters are lower than in decades past, they are stepping up again to advance the values, conservation funding, participation and support of wildlife.
In 2000, hunters and other conservationists banded together to form the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports (CAHSS). The plan was for leaders in the conservation community to "take a fresh look at the business of recruiting and retaining hunters and shooters and to develop new and sustainable strategies and tactics to solicit, engage and support these groups so vital to conservation and America’s heritage.”
CAHSS’ mission is to “facilitate the promotion and growth of hunting and the shooting sports and the education of the public on the contributions that hunters and shooters make toward wildlife conservation.” In step with American hunters nationwide, the group seeks an America where hunting and shooting sports are an integral part of mainstream culture—and where sportsmen are recognized as the premier contributors to conservation.
Assessing the lowering participation trends, CAHSS saw a need to create new strategies for enhancing participation and support. The council brought together state and federal wildlife management agencies, non-profit and conservation organizations, the so-called “species groups” and industry stalwarts. Through collaborative efforts, they developed a National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan (PLAN) to “reverse the decline in participation among hunters and target shooters.” The plan will inventory existing efforts in this arena, coordinate available resources and develop “toolkits” that all partners can use to address mutual challenges and create more hunters and shooting sports participants, especially among non-traditional audiences.
CAHSS also has established outreach programs that contribute to the national dialogue. Sportsmen and women can connect with them via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
According to CAHSS President and CEO John Frampton (email@example.com), “The action plan represents a make-or-break moment for the future of wildlife conservation. There are good things happening across the county, but they don’t seem to be moving the needle.”
Frampton emphasized the key is for sportsmen and the outdoor industry to do things differently. “We have to be able to measure and evaluate our collective efforts,” he explains. "If the numbers of participants and license sales continue to decline, conservation funding from those license sales and the associated taxes that benefit wildlife management will shrink proportionately, and the dollars for conservation just won’t be there." And what remains, he fears, will be funneled more into Threatened and Endangered species management—not our traditional wildlife management programs.
On a positive note, Frampton said they are, however, seeing success as state wildlife agencies develop their own plans as they work with NGOs, industry and other stakeholders to identify the local threats. Of course, the more people who are working together on this challenge, the better our chance of finding solutions and building a future that embraces our hunting, shooting and outdoor heritage. Sportsmen have banded together many times to face threats to wildlife, hunting and shooting. The “next time” needs to be now!
About the Author Chris Chaffin has been an outdoor communicator, educator and partnership manager for more than 40 years. He has worked on the national scene representing several prominent components of the outdoor community promoting hunting, fishing, the shooting sports and conservation. He served two terms as Treasurer for theProfessional Outdoor Media Association(POMA), eventually taking on roles as vice-president, President and Chairman of the Board.
In 2007, he launchedChaffin Communications, Inc., a communications consulting company focusing on the outdoors. In 2012, with support from the Outdoor Adventure Dream Giveaway, Chaffin founded and currently manages theOutdoor Adventure Conservation Fund, a Florida non-profit established to encourage and facilitate more people participating in traditional outdoor activities. For more information,click here.