The recent direction New York State’s conservation and habitat programs are heading toward is rather scary, or it should be to anyone who understands our natural environment. Whether they’re being restructured, reduced or eliminated entirely, the priorities once at the heart of sound conservation in the state are rapidly being pushed aside to favor the totally environmental and non-consumptive ones that, while giving a “feel good” impact, will do little or nothing to insure sound conservation in the future.
Protecting our environment should obviously be one priority of the Department of Environmental Conservation, but it shouldn’t dominate at the cost of ignoring critical conservation safeguards and practices. Otherwise, it should be renamed the “Department of Environment” and drop the word “Conservation” altogether.
The bulk of the DEC’s attention and efforts now go toward insuring our natural environment qualities while also providing a wide variety of non-consumptive outdoor recreational activities and programs available to the public. But as the number of people who hunt or trap has declined, the DEC’s emphasis on managing wildlife and habitat has declined right along with it. What is alarming is these licensed activities, along with fishing, have, via the Conservation Fund, historically paid the tab for much of the conservation and management work done in the state. The growing popularity of non-licensed activities such as hiking, birding, wildlife watching, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, etc. is now a higher priority for DEC than hunting and trapping. The bulk of incidental funds and sales taxes generated by these non-licensed activities goes into the General Fund, supposedly to be used to maintain or expand these opportunities, but that’s not guaranteed.