If you would like to help reform state wildlife management to be more ecologically-driven, democratic and compassionate, here are some actions you can take in your state:
Learn the Issue
Before you take action, it’s important to learn all about who decides on policy that affects your state’s wildlife, how they make their decisions, and what say—if any—citizens have in that process. Explore this website’s resources to find out more.
Read about state wildlife governance, the public trust doctrine, and changing public attitudes about wildlife here.
Learn about your state’s wildlife commission or other wildlife decision-making body (click on the Find Your State button on this page). Find out:
How are members appointed to the commission? In most states, it is the governor.
What authority does the commission have?
For example, the Michigan commission’s website states, “The Natural Resources Commission is a seven-member public body whose members are appointed by the Governor. The Commission has exclusive authority to regulate the taking of game and sportfish, and is authorized to designate game species and authorize the establishment of the first open season for animals through the issuance of orders.”
How do your commission meetings work? Look for:
How often does the commission meet, and where?
Are the meetings in-person only, or is there an opportunity to participate remotely by video conference or phone?
When are commission meeting agendas made public?
Do the commission meetings include an opportunity for public comments?
Find out how wildlife management is funded in your state (click on the Find Your State button on this page).
This information may be on your state’s wildlife management agency’s website rather than the state commission page. All states are allocated revenue from a federal excise tax on the sale of weapons and ammunition (the Pittman-Robertson Act), and fishing and boating equipment (the Dingell-Johnson Act). Additional funding may come from a combination of sources, including:
The state’s general fund
The sale of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses
A state conservation sales tax
A license plate sales fund
A state “non-game” species fund
Now that you know how wildlife policy is made in your state, find out more about the process and who makes the decisions.
Get to know your wildlife commissioners.
How long is a commissioner’s term?
What is each commissioner’s background?
What issues seem to be important to the commission?
Do commissioners represent particular interest groups?
Do commissioners represent certain geographical or political districts in your state?
Attend your state’s wildlife commission meetings. Make note of the following:
What are the commission’s priority issues; what are they passionate about?
How does the commission arrive at decisions? In many states, a proposal for rulemaking from the state wildlife agency, or from a citizen’s petition, will be presented to the commission, it will be opened to a public comment period, and then it will be voted on by the commission. How is it done in your state?
Who are the regular speakers at commission meetings? Make note of who the commission listens to, and who they dismiss or ignore.
Now that you have a better idea of how your commission works and what issues it finds important, it’s time to take citizen action on behalf of your state’s wildlife! A two-step approach might be best: First, establish yourself as a citizen participant in the commission meetings, and second, join with wildlife and environmental groups to advocate for reform of how your commission operates.
Establish yourself as a regular citizen participant in commission meetings.
Coordinate with like-minded wildlife advocates and concerned citizens to attend each commission meeting, regardless of whether an issue of interest to you is on the agenda.
If the commission asks audience members to identify themselves, be sure to say you’re a state resident and are attending to be a voice for your state’s wildlife.
Take part in the public comments portion of commission meetings. Many state wildlife commissions allow 3 to 5 minutes for members of the public to speak about non-agenda issues that are important to them, so take this opportunity to be a positive voice for wildlife. Some ideas:
Deliver a brief statement on the importance of wild carnivores in your state, including the most persecuted and underappreciated species like coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. Check out our “Myth Busters: Do Carnivores need management?” [insert link] section for some handy talking points.
Thank the wildlife rehabilitation and rescue organizations in your state for all that they do to help injured and orphaned wildlife.
Ask a representative of a hiking, biking, birdwatching, or other non-consumptive use group in your state to speak about their membership and activities.
Speak about the urgent need for more wildlife corridors and connectivity in your state.
Ask the commission to commit to more actions to protect species that are endangered, threatened, or imperiled in your state.
Discuss the rapidly increasing numbers of wildlife watchers and other non-consumptive wildlife users across the U.S., and how much revenue they bring into your state. Contact us at WFA for research into this topic.
Join with wildlife and environmental groups to advocate for reform of how your commission operates.
Form a wildlife advocacy coalition to advance wildlife policy and governance reform in your state. Contact us at WFA for examples of how other states have done this, such as Washington Wildlife First.
Meet with your coalition to decide how you would like to approach wildlife governance reform in your state.
If you would like to introduce legislation to reform your state wildlife commission makeup or funding sources, contact us at WFA for guidance on sample language and tips for lobbying and advocacy in your state legislature.