Will NY sportsmen be the next ‘Mohicans?’

Remember “Last of the Mohicans?” Whether you read the novel, saw the movie(s), or both, it occurred to me that hunters and trappers may someday face a similar fate. No, it won’t be because of being eliminated in physical battle, but rather by political, bureaucratic, economic and social actions. It won’t happen quickly, but will occur in stages, many of which we’ve already witnessed.

The latest evidence involves the voluntary Habitat-Access (H/A) Stamp program being administered by the Dept. of Environmental Conservation - primarily the result of shrinking private land access and deteriorating habitat or over-used public land. After much planning and bickering, the State agreed to the formation of a voluntary fund that would be used to improve access and also the quality of habitat. The cost per stamp was $5 and could be purchased at any agency or business selling DEC hunting, fishing and trapping licenses by anyone, and not just sportsmen and women.

The key word here is “voluntary.” By going that route the state should have predetermined a few facts of life. One was that a person plunking down up to $70 for a Sportsman or Super Sportsman license might think twice before “donating” an additional fiver to a program whose effectiveness was yet to be proven. Second was the fact the DEC did almost nothing to promote the stamp. Even in its regulations syllabuses, only a small text block was used to feature it. In addition, an alarming number of licensing agents either weren’t aware of its existence or never bothered to ask buyers if they’d like to purchase it. Lastly, much like the voluntary NY waterfowl stamp, few non-consumptive users bought a stamp. Why should they? They already enjoy free use of most public land. The results were predictable, with the stamp barely generating $30,000 its first year and only about $50,000 each year since then.

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