Recognizing America’s original conservationists: Celebrating National Hunting & Fishing Day 2020
By Del. James Edmunds and Sen. Emmett Hanger
America’s hunters and anglers are our nation’s original conservationists. September 26th is our 48th Annual National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD) to recognize and celebrate the historical and ongoing contributions of the Old Dominion’s sportsmen and women. As Co-Chairs of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and members of the 49-state National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, we are proud to celebrate these time-honored traditions and encourage all Virginians to use National Hunting and Fishing Day to take advantage of the inherently socially distant activities of hunting and fishing available to us.
Hunters and anglers provide the foundation of conservation funding through the purchase of licenses, tags and stamps, and by paying self-imposed excise taxes on the equipment that we use. Adding these contributions together, hunters and anglers generated $62.61 million to fund the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources through the “user-pays, public-benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. This funding, in addition the overall economic contributions of hunters, provides benefits for all Virginians.
Equally as important, hunting and angling provide Virginians an opportunity to explore the natural world around them while taking advantage of the many well-documented physical and mental health benefits associated with spending time outdoors. Through hunting and angling, one can truly appreciate the importance of conservation. This is why sportsmen and women dedicate much of their time and resources to improve conditions for fish and wildlife, which has ripple effects throughout the ecosystem and benefits all species and the people that enjoy them. Similarly, sportsmen and women are among the strongest supporters of legislation to increase public access opportunities for all Americans and provide additional funding for wildlife management.
There is perhaps no better example of this than the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. This historic piece of legislation fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and appropriates $9.5 billion to take neglected infrastructure projects off the backburner, including $3 billion to support hunting, fishing and recreational shooting activities on federally owned public lands and waters. Thanks to a bipartisan effort in Congress and the support of sportsmen and women, the Great American Outdoors Act will ensure we are leaving our country in a better place for the next generation.
We hope that you will use National Hunting and Fishing Day to celebrate our time-honored traditions and perhaps introduce someone new to our outdoor pursuits so that they, too, can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of hunting and fishing. Given the renewed desire for safe outdoor recreational opportunities brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a growing desire among the populace for a self-sufficient lifestyle that includes food security, there is perhaps no better time to introduce beginners to the outdoors for the first time. Along the way, they will learn more about the natural world around them, procure organic, locally-sourced food for the entire family, and carry forward the proud conservation legacy of Virginia’s original conservationists.
Del. James Edmunds and Sen. Emmett Hanger are co-chairs of the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.