I’ve recently been hearing an advertisement on the radio that encourages landowners to enroll their acreage into a land trust. Land trusts can serve an important role in allowing owners to control land use in perpetuity. But the advertisement promotes this particular land trust as a way to protect endangered species by stopping hunting and trapping on the property. That idea is so erroneous that it bothers me every time that I hear it being broadcast. I hope that it is not successful in enticing landowners to enroll their properties.
In Missouri and every other state with which I am familiar, endangered species are not legally hunted or trapped. They are protected by the same regulations that allow the hunting and trapping of more common species. The game species that are hunted are some of the most abundant and successfully managed animal populations in the world. Modern conservation is based on principles of wildlife management that brought game animals like deer and turkey back from the precipice of endangerment by ending market hunting and unregulated hunting. In this Department, professional biologists constantly monitor wild game populations. Harvest seasons and limits are tailored to maintain those populations at desirable levels. Trappers help to control population levels of furbearers that can otherwise become too numerous on the landscape due to a lack of predators.
Sales of hunting and trapping permits help pay for habitat work. This benefits all wildlife, including endangered species, so hunters—who also pay Missouri’s conservation sales tax—actually do more than anyone else to support endangered species conservation.
Ironically, lack of hunting can increase stress on endangered species. An example is excessive browsing of forest-floor plants when uncontrolled deer populations reach high densities. That is why areas that normally don’t allow hunting, such as state parks, periodically hold special hunts to control burgeoning deer numbers.
Missouri is a state with a rich hunting and trapping tradition and an excellent record of protecting endangered species and their habitats. Our citizens should view with skepticism any claims that those interests are incompatible.