Wildlife as Public Trust Resources – the wildlife of this nation belongs to the people at large not to the landowner, completely opposite of the European model and more consistent with our national principles of freedom and democracy. This is why wildlife on private property are governed by state and federal game laws.
Elimination of Markets for Game – in the late 1800s and early 1900s wild game in this country was sold on the market, much as it was in Europe and is still done there today. Market demand is what led to the decline of buffalo herds and flocks of ducks and geese. Elimination of this market was a foundational principle to help begin the management of individual wildlife species.
Allocation of Wildlife by Law – public law allocates wildlife resources rather than the free market or land ownership. This is why migratory bird seasons are set by the Federal government and our own General Assembly regulates manner of taking game (i.e. Sunday hunting) through the Wildlife Resources Commission.
Wildlife Should Only be Killed for a Legitimate Purpose – this seems like a no brainer, but at the time these were developed it was unheard of. This means killing of game must only be done for food, fur, self-defense, and protection of property. It is also why our ethics require us to make reasonable efforts to retrieve all downed game. If you look at our state game laws, you can see this principle effectively applied.
Wildlife is Considered an International Resource – Illegal immigration is a hot political topic right now, but open borders also apply to North American Wildlife. Bears, deer, move, dove, ducks do not recognize the border between the U.S. and Canada. This is particularly true for ducks and geese, many of which nest in Canada and migrate all the way to southern U.S. states.
Science is the Proper Tool for Discharge of Wildlife Policy – this is the one we seem to have forgotten, allowing animal rights and environmental groups to influence and sometimes dictate both land use and wildlife management policy. Locally environmental groups have severely reduced wildlife habitat management on our National Forests. In Wisconsin animal rights groups have prevented management of the Great Lakes grey wolf population to the detriment of other wildlife species like deer and moose. It is also why hunting is one of the best management tools for wildlife populations as we see with Spring Conservation hunts for snow geese. Science, not emotion, should dictate wildlife management.
Democracy of Hunting – lastly a principle inspired by President Teddy Roosevelt who felt that open access to hunting would best benefit society and wildlife in general. And it proved true. This is in contrast to the European model where hunting is usually only accessible to the wealthy or landowners. Implementation of this single principle has paid off by the billions of dollars in license fees that are used to improve wildlife habitat and enforce game laws. This, along with the Pittman-Robertson Act, is THE reasons for success of wildlife management in the United States.
We don’t teach these principles to young hunters but should. We somewhat cover it in Hunter Education training in the last chapter but it is done oh-so-briefly. As we begin this new year I encourage every hunter and angler to read these principles, understand their meaning, and share them with other young hunters. The deer, geese, and grouse we hunt; the trout we catch; don’t just happen. It has taken over one hundred years of management using these principles that has gotten us here. We stand to lose it if we neglect the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation by not understanding and abiding by its principles.