During the recent Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) meeting, a Multistate Conservation Grant (MSCG) proposal to provide funding for the Boone and Crockett Club’s Poach & Pay Project was recommended for approval. Coordinated in conjunction with the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), Poach & Pay is the first comprehensive research project to review, assess, and address the level of illegal take of wildlife in our country. Initial funding for this project was provided by the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, Leupold & Stevens, Federal Ammunition, and Safari Club International along with a research and media partnership with International Wildlife Crimestoppers, Inc. The MSCG grant will support the research that is underway and, combined with additional partner funding, will allow for a coordinated public outreach campaign using the results of the research.
“A comprehensive study on wildlife poaching is long overdue and the Boone and Crockett Club with our partners at the Wildlife Management Institute believe it is time to change that,” commented Club chief executive officer Tony Schoonen. “With the financial support through this Multistate Conservation Grant and our sponsors we will know with more certainty what this ‘dark figure’ of poaching truly is, and then will work together to fight wildlife crime.”
The MSCG Program is administered by AFWA in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Created through the Fish and Wildlife Administration Improvement Act of 2000, $6 million from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds are made available annually for conservation projects impacting a majority of states. The Secretary of the Interior gives final approval for MSCG funding, however proposals receive in depth review through a series of AFWA committees and recommended proposals typically are approved.
The first phase of the Poach & Pay research is attempting to quantify the degree to which wildlife violations go undetected by surveying and interviewing representative samples of hunters, landowners, conservation officers, and persons convicted of wildlife crimes. This month, surveys were sent to 80,000 landowners, 80,000 avid sportsmen (defined as purchasing a hunting license in each of the past 5 years), and more than 1,000 conservation officers in the eight target states (Maine, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, Oregon, and Nevada). These states were selected to maximize variability in location, urban/rural makeup, percent of public vs. private lands, species composition, and accessibility and quality of data.
“The Hunter and Landowner surveys focus on wildlife crimes for which the respondents have personal knowledge, the rates of detection by landowners and hunters to the rates of reporting by those same individuals will be examined,” noted WMI’s Dr. Jonathan Gassett, lead researcher on the project. “A more comprehensive survey is being administered to law enforcement officers of the eight subject states to investigate their thoughts, opinions, and attitudes on the levels of illegal take of wildlife, as well as their experiences with the associated judicial processes.”
Using the developed estimates of undetected wildlife crimes along with the currently accepted penalties and replacement costs for lost animal value, licenses, permits, and federal wildlife assistance grants, this research will help to determine a true fiscal cost associated with the non-detection of wildlife crimes at the state, regional, and national levels. The estimates will also evaluate the fiscal costs of undetected wildlife crimes to determine the associated conservation costs at the state, regional, and national level by comparing those costs to current conservation efforts being funded or performed by state agencies (e.g., wildlife management, habitat management, imperiled species protection, restoration of species, etc.).
“Working with the agencies and state legislatures, WMI and the Boone and Crockett Club will use the findings to bring long overdue attention to the illegal take of wildlife and its true cost to agencies, hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and the public,” Schoonen concluded.
About the Boone and Crockett Club
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club promotes guardianship and visionary management of big game and associated wildlife in North America. The Club maintains the highest standards of fair chase sportsmanship and habitat stewardship. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. For details, visit www.boone-crockett.org.