Submitted May 16, 2022.
In Pennsylvania, a state renowned for its natural beauty, life is vibrant: our forests are lush, our waterways plentiful, our wildlife diverse. Where do we fit as humans in this picture?
The answer has changed over time – and it should continue to evolve. Namely, by expanding Sunday hunting opportunities, we must reinvigorate our state’s historic hunting culture to increase our resilience to climate change.
Until the late 19th century, largely unregulated commercial hunting and trapping decimated populations of wild turkeys, black bears, elk, and white-tailed deer in Keystone State. Wildlife and its habitats were seen as capital to be extracted for human profit; Eventually, that perspective began to change.
A milestone was the North American model of wildlife conservation, popularized in the 19th century. Once unofficial, this legal framework established wildlife as an international public resource, allocated by law, to be hunted democratically for legitimate purposes.
The visible decline in natural resources has also inspired action by organizations such as the Pennsylvania Sportsmen’s Association and the PA Game Commission (PGC).
Soon the idea of hunting for hunting was replaced by the notion of hunting as a means of managing our wildlife and our ecosystem. Hunters have become agents in the field of ecological restoration.
In 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act funneled hunting license fees and ammunition excise taxes into state conservation funds, allowing for increased capacity of state environmental agencies.
Today, the hunting tradition is largely maintained by a declining and homogeneous population struggling with the ramifications of climate change. Whether due to a shift in population from rural to urban communities or growing anti-hunting sentiment, only five percent of Americans 16 and older are hunting – a 50% drop from the 1960s – according to a 2018 study by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions are a growing concern.
Earlier this year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report, which calls for halving global emissions by 2030 to mitigate climate change. worst effects of global warming.
Combined, climate change and declining hunting can spell disaster for our state’s forests and wildlife.
Hunting prevents the overpopulation of wildlife that so often devastates habitats and populations of prey species, this degradation in turn eliminating specialized species.
Climate change can lead to redistribution of tree species, expansion of habitat for invasive species, intense drought and wildfires and species extinction. Especially in Pennsylvania — home to 22 endangered species, seven threatened, and 100 species “in greatest need of conservation,” according to the PGC — the overlap between these issues presents dangers to our ecosystem.
We must reinvigorate Pennsylvanians’ zeal for hunting to strategically increase the resilience of our forests to climate change. A great first step is to expand Sunday hunting in our state to manage overpopulation and subsequent habitat degradation, to curb wildlife disease, and to diversify our hunting constituency.
Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania has always been illegal for religious reasons. However, in 2019, Senate Bill 147 legalized the hunting of specific species on three Sundays of the hunting season.
The 2022-2023 hunting season and bag limits will remain similar, as the Council of Commissioners did not have enough members to legally vote on new limits at its January 2022 meeting. This season the hunt will be therefore legal for several species on Sundays November 13, 20 and 27.
This schedule is insufficient.
To maintain the resilience of our forests and wildlife in the face of climate catastrophe, we must reverse tradition and expand the Sunday hunting schedule to include all Sundays that fall within established hunting seasons, unless it is there are legitimate and specific concerns for the health of wildlife.
This expansion will help reverse the decline of hunting by making it more convenient for young people and hunters with day jobs, thereby funneling more money from hunting licenses and firearms into our wildlife conservation funds. ‘State.
It will also contribute to important wildlife management initiatives, such as encouraging hunting with Deer Management Assistance Program permits at Chronic Wasting Disease Units (hunters can then subjecting their deer heads to state research testing) and preventing white-tailed deer populations from grazing our forests too much.
It’s time to let go of our misperceptions of hunting to see the practice for what it is: a historically effective tool that can be used strategically to combat the effects of climate change.
Emma Olney, originally from Pennsylvania, is an undergraduate student at Bowdoin College.