What You Can Do
Good for you for coming to this page! You obviously care about wildlife and so you have the super power needed to change the way wildlife is managed in your state. Here are some suggestions for how to do that.
- Start by becoming familiar with the nuts and bolts of state wildlife governance. Check out the “Resources” section on this website, especially the “Overview of State Wildlife Management.” Check out the “Myth Busters” section to help prepare for the inevitable time you hear somebody explain to you why the status quo can’t or shouldn’t be changed.
- Then learn more about how wildlife decisions are made in your state. Use the “Find Your State” feature to get specific information about your state’s wildlife statutes, wildlife commission (if your state has one), wildlife agency, and sources of wildlife funding.
Now you’re set to go to work. You can act on your own, but there is strength in numbers. Ideally, you will do these things as part of an organization that works on wildlife issues in your state (e.g. Sierra Club chapter) or a state wildlife advocacy coalition. Contact us at Wildlife for All if you need help finding wildlife advocates in your state.
There are at least three points of intervention where you can focus your efforts to reform state wildlife management:
State Wildlife Commissions:
The goal is to actively engage with, and influence, commission decision making.
- Establish yourself as a regular citizen participant in commission meetings. In some states the meetings are live streamed on the web and you can participate via the internet or phone.
- If you can, 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.
- Find out who the commissioners are, what they care about, and if they represent a particular interest group (agriculture, hunters, etc.) Try to figure out if any of them might be allies and ask to meet with them between commission meetings to express your opinions and ask for their guidance.
- 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:
- Remind commissioners of what the public trust doctrine is, and of their responsibilities as trustees to protect ALL species of wildlife for ALL state residents and visitors, now and in the future.
- Ask how the commission and agency are preparing for passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, how much matching funds the state will need to provide, where that money will come from, and how many non-game biologists the agency will need to hire.
- 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.
- Deliver a brief statement on the ecological and personal (to you) 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?” section for some handy talking points.
- Don’t be afraid to express your values (e.g. “I believe that wildlife killing contests are wrong,” etc.) because values underlie every wildlife decision although they are not usually acknowledged. And, don’t forget, your values are more likely to be aligned with the general public’s than those of commissioners and agency staff.
The goal is to get good candidates appointed to your state wildlife commission (in most states by the governor).
- Figure out if there are any current vacancies on the commission or any commissioners whose terms are nearing expiration. Start to gather names of qualified candidates who support a Wildlife for All reform agenda and are willing to serve. (See our recommended qualifications for the ideal commission candidate here.)
- Submit those names to the governor for appointment to vacancies on the commission. (This has more impact if done as a sign-on letter from a number of groups.) Follow up to let the governor know that the issue is important to you, and that the wildlife advocacy community is watching.
- If you have the opportunity at public events, remind the Governor how important it is to you as a voter that qualified people with diverse viewpoints, including non-consumptive users, be appointed to the commission.
- Submit letters to the editor and op-eds on the topic.
The goal is to enact legislation to establish an ideal wildlife management framework in your state.
- Identify the wildlife champions and allies in your state legislature. Work with them to draft and pass legislation that does the following:
- Aligns state wildlife policy as expressed in statute with the Public Trust Doctrine. Here’s an example from draft legislation in New Mexico: “It is the purpose of this act to provide for the conservation and management of the state’s wildlife as a public trust with intrinsic and ecological value, for the equitable benefit, use, and enjoyment of all residents and visitors, including future generations.”
- Give’s the state’s wildlife agency legal authority to regulate the take of all species and their habitats, including invertebrates.
- Abolishes the state’s wildlife commission (three states–MN, NY, CT–currently don’t have commissions), or alternatively…
- Changes the criteria for selection of commissioners to ensure that non-consumptive users are represented in proportion to their demographic in the general population, and eliminates the requirement that commissioners be license buyers.
- Establishes a new, recurring, and dedicated funding source for non-game conservation that is not tied to the sale of hunting and fishing licenses or to Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson federal grants.
- Don’t get discouraged if your efforts are not immediately successful. It often takes years to get bills through state legislatures.