Unfortunately, conserving Indiana’s wild places and ensuring our wildlife has a safe place to call home is not free. Indiana’s conservation initiatives, from protecting fish and wildlife areas to carrying out wildlife studies, depend on millions of dollars in state and federal funding.
Historically, hunters and anglers have made a large financial impact on conservation funding. Since the mid-19th century, states have required non-residents to purchase licenses to hunt. In 1901, for example, Indiana made out-of-state hunters buy a $25 license, and two years later, Indiana residents started paying a $1 fee to hunt in the state.
Factoring in equipment purchases, hunting and fishing brings a lot of money to the state, and two important federal reimbursement programs help steer this money toward conservation.
The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Fund apportions revenue taken from taxes on hunting and fishing equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
In 2011, Indiana acquired over $9 million from these two programs, which have brought around $230 million to Indiana since they began. All of this money goes toward DNR’s conservation programs.
Funding for Indiana’s conservation initiatives should not depend solely on the money spent by hunters and anglers. Conservation needs help from everyone, and there a number of ways you can contribute.
The next time you renew your car’s registration, buy an Environmental License plate. Donations from environmental plates go toward the Indiana Heritage Trust, which buys land from willing sellers to protect Indiana’s rich natural heritage for wildlife habitat and recreation.
Environmental plate sales have helped protect over 50,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat, and without this income, the Indiana Heritage Trust will no longer be able to purchase land for future parks, nature preserves, and fishing and hunting areas.
If you already have an environmental plate, consider donating to the Nongame Wildlife Fund. This important program supports restoration projects for Indiana’s nongame species, animals such as bald eagles, river otters, osprey, and peregrine falcons, which cannot be hunted.
The Nongame Wildlife Fund depends entirely on donations to protect the over 750 endangered and nongame species call Indiana home. At tax time next year, you can easily help by donating all or part of your state refund on the state tax form. Alternatively, DNR makes it easy to donate online or through the mail.
Anyone who enjoys the wildlife at Indiana’s public wild spaces, even those who do not hunt or fish, can and should buy a hunting and fishing license from the Department of Natural Resources.
Proceeds from license sales directly fund conservation programs. For example, license revenue helps DNR acquire and manage places like Goose Pond, over 8,000 acres of critical prairie and marsh habitat. Cherished by hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers, Goose Pond has become an important stopover point for numerous migratory bird populations and offers ample opportunities for fishing.
Hunting and fishing licenses sales help maintain Goose Pond and other important wild places by leveraging money from the federal government. From the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs, Indiana receives about $11 for every fishing license and $25 for every hunting license sold.
Buy a $25 combination license, and you more than double the federal dollars coming to Indiana for conservation.
Whether you hunt, fish, watch wildlife, hike, bike, or simply enjoy the outdoors out your window, please consider supporting our state’s conservation initiatives through one of the funding mechanisms mentioned above. Investing in conservation will provide Indiana’s wildlife with safe places to prosper and allow future generations to enjoy and learn about our natural heritage.
Thank you to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for supplying background information for this column.