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The Planet

April 1998, Volume 5, Number 3

Support Needed for Teaming With Wildlife  


by Sarah Fallon

     

    In October 1997, The Planet reported on the sale and logging plans for a 5-square-mile tract in Blackwater Canyon, W. Va. Allegheny Wood Products won the sale because its competitor, a land trust that wanted to buy the area to protect it from development, was $1 million short. 

    Had the land trust had access to Teaming With Wildlife funds, however, it might have been able to purchase that area, which is used by hikers, kayakers, anglers and mountain bikers. 

    The Teaming With Wildlife initiative, a proposal by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and supported by a broad coalition of environmental and outdoor consumer groups, would place a surcharge of up to 5 percent on the manufacturer’s cost of outdoor recreational equipment such as birdseed, binoculars, tents and sleeping bags. For example, the added cost to the consumer of a tent that retails for $100 would be about $2.50. 

    The money would be distributed to the states to use for conservation of non-game and non-threatened wildlife, habitat acquisition, conservation education and outdoor recreation. The money would be deposited in a dedicated federal trust fund and distributed to state wildlife agencies based on a formula of state land mass and population size. 

    Currently, surcharges on hunting and fishing equipment raise about $430 million nationally for state hunting and fishing programs as well as for wildlife conservation, “but these funds are pretty much tapped out,” says Paul Wilson, a member of the Club’s Wild Planet Strategy Team. West Virginia gets about $2.7 million each year from hunter and angler taxes and about $2 million from the Wildlife Resoration Fund. Teaming With Wildlife would make a significant contribution to those funds by generating $2.6 million a year. That could have made the difference in the Blackwater Canyon purchase. “Everybody uses that canyon, and if Allegheny logs or develops the area, everyone will lose,” Wilson says. 

    “By funding habitat conservation, research and education on those species not currently listed as endangered, Teaming With Wildlife will keep more species off the list, thereby keeping costs and controversy associated with recovery down,” says Alex Weinhagen, Conservation Committee member for the Vermont Chapter. 

    The coalition in support of the initiative has some 2,600 members, and TWW has been endorsed in concept by the national Sierra Club and 20 chapters to date. Supporters include National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Ornithologists Union. There are, however, a few conspicuous absentees like REI and L.L. Bean. REI argues that there are other mechanisms for funding, like the Land and Water Conservation Fund. “But there’s no assurance that the money will be available for areas like Blackwater Canyon,” says Laurie Macdonald, chair of the Endangered Species and Habitat Campaign Steering Committee. “And, threats to wildlife and habitat continue to increase.” 

    Furthermore, federal fund appropriations do not create a strong, active constituency like the “user pay/user benefit” model, and the LWCF does not provide funds for educational programs like interpretive walks and signage. “Teaming With Wildlife is a dedicated fund that would finance both land purchases and land management,” says Weinhagen. 

    The proposal has yet to be introduced to Congress; the Club supports the TWW initiative as long as the primary goal remains the conservation of wildlife and not the construction of facilities, such as building boardwalks or creating new campgrounds and parking lots. 



    To take action: To be introduced as legislation this session, the proposal needs more widespread endorsement. Businesses need to hear that their customers want them to support this initiative. Write to the outdoor businesses you patronize and say you support paying a small user fee that will be dedicated to non-game wildlife conservation, habitat acquisition, conservation education and outdoor recreation. Also, contact your representative and your senators and tell them to support it when it is introduced. 

    For more information: Paul Wilson, (800) 582-3421, paul_wilson@mail.fws.gov 
    or Alex Weinhagen, (802) 655-9611, 
    aweinhagen@compuserve.com. Check out 
    www.teaming.com or contact the non-game section of your state Fish and Wildlife Agency. 

     


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