|In October 1997, The Planet reported on the
sale and logging plans for a 5-square-mile tract in Blackwater Canyon, W. Va. Allegheny
Wood Products won the sale because its competitor, a land trust that wanted to buy the
area to protect it from development, was $1 million short.
Had the land trust had
access to Teaming With Wildlife funds, however, it might have been able to purchase that
area, which is used by hikers, kayakers, anglers and mountain bikers.
The Teaming With Wildlife initiative, a proposal by the International Association of
Fish and Wildlife Agencies and supported by a broad coalition of environmental and outdoor
consumer groups, would place a surcharge of up to 5 percent on the manufacturers
cost of outdoor recreational equipment such as birdseed, binoculars, tents and sleeping
bags. For example, the added cost to the consumer of a tent that retails for $100 would be
The money would be distributed to the states to use for conservation of non-game and
non-threatened wildlife, habitat acquisition, conservation education and outdoor
recreation. The money would be deposited in a dedicated federal trust fund and distributed
to state wildlife agencies based on a formula of state land mass and population
Currently, surcharges on hunting and fishing equipment raise about $430 million
nationally for state hunting and fishing programs as well as for wildlife conservation,
but these funds are pretty much tapped out, says Paul Wilson, a member of the
Clubs Wild Planet Strategy Team. West Virginia gets about $2.7 million each year
from hunter and angler taxes and about $2 million from the Wildlife Resoration Fund.
Teaming With Wildlife would make a significant contribution to those funds by generating
$2.6 million a year. That could have made the difference in the Blackwater Canyon
purchase. Everybody uses that canyon, and if Allegheny logs or develops the area,
everyone will lose, Wilson says.
By funding habitat conservation, research and education on those species not
currently listed as endangered, Teaming With Wildlife will keep more species off the list,
thereby keeping costs and controversy associated with recovery down, says Alex
Weinhagen, Conservation Committee member for the Vermont Chapter.
The coalition in support of the initiative has some 2,600 members, and TWW has been
endorsed in concept by the national Sierra Club and 20 chapters to date. Supporters
include National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and the American
Ornithologists Union. There are, however, a few conspicuous absentees like REI and L.L.
Bean. REI argues that there are other mechanisms for funding, like the Land and Water
Conservation Fund. But theres no assurance that the money will be available
for areas like Blackwater Canyon, says Laurie Macdonald, chair of the Endangered
Species and Habitat Campaign Steering Committee. And, threats to wildlife and
habitat continue to increase.
Furthermore, federal fund appropriations do not create a strong, active constituency
like the user pay/user benefit model, and the LWCF does not provide funds for
educational programs like interpretive walks and signage. Teaming With Wildlife is a
dedicated fund that would finance both land purchases and land management, says
The proposal has yet to be introduced to Congress; the Club supports the TWW initiative
as long as the primary goal remains the conservation of wildlife and not the construction
of facilities, such as building boardwalks or creating new campgrounds and parking
To take action: To be introduced as legislation this session, the proposal needs
more widespread endorsement. Businesses need to hear that their customers want them to
support this initiative. Write to the outdoor businesses you patronize and say you support
paying a small user fee that will be dedicated to non-game wildlife conservation, habitat
acquisition, conservation education and outdoor recreation. Also, contact your
representative and your senators and tell them to support it when it is introduced.
For more information: Paul Wilson, (800) 582-3421, firstname.lastname@example.org
or Alex Weinhagen, (802) 655-9611,
email@example.com. Check out
www.teaming.com or contact the non-game section of
your state Fish and Wildlife Agency.