Beverlee McGrath: Nevada’s wildlife belongs to taxpayers
July 19, 2014
This question was recently asked: "Who should have a say in how Nevada wildlife is managed."
Nevada's wildlife, including the predators, are part of a healthy functioning landscape and should be managed on real, peer reviewed science and not the self-serving prejudices of individuals who remove a public resource — without compensating the citizens of Nevada. The public's wildlife — a valuable natural resource — is akin to gold, silver, oil or natural gas. Such compensation is overdue and appropriate given the damage hunters and trappers inflict.
Who entitled hunters and trappers to kill wildlife without seeking the approval of other residents in the state? Nevada's wildlife legally belongs to all state residents, per the Nevada Revised Statutes. The majority of Nevadans do not support hunting and trapping as there are more than 2.5 million Nevadans who hold no wildlife killing licenses. These Nevadans are an overwhelming majority to the two percent of Nevadans who hold hunting and trapping registrations.
Wildlife killers contribute precious little to state wildlife agency funding — just 23 percent of the budget from registration fees paid. Most of the Federal taxpayer money funding state wildlife programs comes from non-wildlife killing gun owners — not hunters and trappers. Even eco-tourists seeking wildlife observation (not killing) far eclipse the hunters' and trappers' economic contributions per budget documents submitted to the 77th Legislature.
Regarding funding and expenses: NDOW's 15-year bear specialist recently testified about a statistically vague population between 400 and 700. This uncertain range has been used to justify three annual hunts for controlling a fictitious population explosion. NDOW collected $55,000 of hunt fees over two years but spent $200,000 in the first year of the bear hunt. An open-records request to NDOW for second-year hunt expenses indicates "no records are kept tracking costs of operating and administering the bear hunt."
However, NDOW receives multiple federal grants — redistribution of our tax money — based on detailed estimates and reporting of actual costs. Let's assume just $200,000 of net losses over two years. To kill 25 bears, Nevadans subsidized each dead bear at $8,000.
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One thousand licensed trappers statewide pay just $33 annually for unlimited trapping, but NDOW has repeatedly stated it spends $100,000 to administer trapping, or a net loss of $67,000 each year.
Perhaps this is the solution: Abolish the Nevada Wildlife Commission and its 17 county advisory boards during the next legislature, thereby eliminating useless, costly and biased bodies focused only on wildlife killing, not protection. The state's Conservation & Natural Resources department already operates under this organizational model. Its Wildlife department employs professional staff potentially capable of re-balancing wildlife's best interests against the current, shameless slaughter. Such a change would streamline an outdated, duplicate administrative structure and save scarce state funds.
Beverlee McGrath is the legislative representative for Nevada Political Action for Animals and Lake Tahoe Wolf Rescue.