The completion of this document is the culmination of the first step in a process that started over two decades ago when Congress recognized the need for planning and conservation funding for non-game wildlife. While no funds were ever appropriated for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1980, the seed was planted to set the stage for this vital third leg of conservation funding (the other two being the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, and the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950).
In 1994, the Teaming With Wildlife coalition carried the torch for non-game funding, and within 4 years had grown to more than 3000 member organizations. The Teaming With Wildlife approach was the first significant push to fund non-game conservation with an excise tax similar to Pittman-Robertson. While the coalition failed in its attempt to secure an excise tax on outdoor-related sporting equipment, their persistence and the importance of the issue ultimately gained funding from the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program (WCRP) and ultimately the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants (STWG) program.
The STWG program provides annual appropriations to the state wildlife agencies for the management, protection, and conservation of imperiled species and has resulted in more than $340 million in conservation funding since its inception in 2000. The program also mandates the development of a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (State Wildlife Action Plan) for each state and U.S. territory.
President Theodore Roosevelt stated at a Progressive National Convention in 1912 that “there can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.” Not much has happened in the past 90+ years to alter that belief. Increasing human populations, uncontrolled urban sprawl, invasive exotics, pollution, and disease continue to take their toll on the wildlife resources of the Commonwealth and throughout the nation. Today in Kentucky, we lose more than 47,000 acres per year to development alone. A lack of planning by professionals on how to conserve the special places and the special creatures under our protection will continue to result in a loss of species diversity.
This action plan is Kentucky’s roadmap for sustaining fish and wildlife diversity, but it is not a panacea. By itself, it is simply pages, pictures, maps, and words. However, in the hands of united fish and wildlife professionals, it will become a powerful motivating force for change. The 56 plans developed by the states and territories are a testament to the struggles and determination of the individuals in the fish and wildlife profession for which failure is not an option. These plans, and the collective thoughts and passions of their authors, will help in our battle for additional funding, and ultimately, for the conservation of all species.
The road to success will be difficult. There will be obstacles, but the dedication of our professionals will overcome them. Ultimately, we will succeed, because we cannot afford the alternative.
In closing, Theodore Roosevelt once stated that “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take ranks with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” The professionals that constructed this plan struggled. They struggled for all the reasons that people struggle when put to a monumental task. As Roosevelt pointed out, they are better people for having made the effort, which is reflected in their work product. We have taken the first step, and it is in the right direction. There are many more to follow if we are to remain vigilant in the conservation of the fish and wildlife resources that we hold in trust for the public. It is far better to dare mighty things, so we must continue with our journey.
Jonathan Gassett, Ph.D.
Ky. Dept of Fish and Wildlife Resources