There is a movement, driven by consumers and the agricultural sector, to better connect people with their food. Consumers are demanding the background information of their food. Producer groups like Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Milk and Egg Farmers of Alberta are doing an amazing job of telling the “farm-to-table” story.
Most of us are quite far removed from wildlife in our daily lives. In the hunting and conservation sector, we need to tap into the excitement of seeing wildlife and connect it to conservation and the role hunting plays in it. There is an emerging audience that represents that untapped opportunity for our industry. My generation—the dreaded millennial—could represent the necessary resurgence of hunters.
The story behind the photo
The future of our industry will depend on telling the stories beyond the “trophy” shot. These snapshots provide no context and do not capture the whole story. They do not explain why we need hunters, or the important role hunting plays in conservation.
Over the next five years, the Alberta Professional Outfitters Society (APOS) will undertake numerous initiatives to tell a fuller story about hunting, talking about the whole hunting experience, the benefits of game meat, and the need for sustainable use. Professional outfitters and hunters are deeply connected to wildlife and care about the health and future of wildlife. This passion is the bridge between people who enjoy wildlife consumptively and people who enjoy wildlife non-consumptively.
Teach it forward
One of the initiatives is our classroom education package. Designed for grades three to six, the package explores wildlife identification, the benefits of sustainable use, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation*, and careers in wildlife. The Cabela’s Canada Outdoor Fund and the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association (AHEIA) have provided financial support.
These kits will help engage the next generation in wildlife conservation, and teach them that wildlife has value and is important. We want our emerging leaders and voters to care about the future of wildlife and want to give the next generation a sense of how wildlife conservation can be achieved.
Use it to keep it
Leaving wildlife unmanaged is not an option. Without human intervention wildlife will fall victim to the many other forces at play on our landscapes. Hunting is not a threat to wildlife—it’s a solution. It also generates the funds needed to proactively manage wildlife.
In Alberta, over $20 million is collected annually through the sale of hunting licenses. Most of these dollars fund the work done by Alberta Conservation Association (ACA). Approximately $1.6 million goes to the Government of Alberta for managing wildlife. The government still retains an impressive $4.4 million in yearly general revenue from hunting licenses.
At APOS, outfitters pay an annual “reconfirmation fee” that goes back into wildlife stewardship projects. Since 2008, this fund has distributed over $1.1 million. Looking at where hunters spend their money and their time, reveals most of them care about wildlife and habitat. It’s a great news story we need to share. Stay tuned for the official launch of the APOS classroom education package this fall.–Jeana Schuurman, Managing Director Alberta Professional Outfitters Society
*For more information see https://wildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/North-American-model-of-Wildlife-Conservation.pdf.