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Sportsmen, sporting industry gather as partners in conservation

The floor of ICAST 2013 in Las Vegas. Photo: American Sportfishing AssociationThe floor of ICAST 2013 in Las Vegas. Photo: American Sportfishing AssociationFor many in the hunting and fishing industry, two key trade shows bookend the vast scope of products, information and advocacy driving our sporting world. The first, and largest at 60,000 attendees, is SHOT Show for the shooting and hunting industry. The second is the fishing industry’s ICAST (The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) with around 9,500 attendees. Recently, some of the Vanishing Paradise crew had the great honor to attend this year’s ICAST in Las Vegas.

Much magic happens within the air-conditioned walls of ICAST. Manufacturers move their products through large orders to retailers; entrepreneurs showcase their innovation; and the outdoor media enjoy consolidated access to the leaders, celebrities and champions of the industry.

And when I talk about industry, I’m talking about a complex, interconnected world of business, people, wildlife and habitat.

A Legacy of Conservation Partnerships

It goes without saying that wildlife and habitat are the cornerstones of hunting and fishing—there cannot be one without the other. Manufacturers also play a crucial role in this world, not only by producing the tools, but by paying excise taxes that fund conservation in North America (along with fishing and hunting licenses).

The mutually beneficial connection between wildlife habitat, sportsmen, and manufacturers began more than 75 years ago. On September 2, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, now called the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which to this day fosters partnerships between federal and state fish and wildlife agencies, the sporting arms industry, conservation groups and sportsmen and women to benefit wildlife.

Later, anglers and the fishing and boating industries established similar funding strategies through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act) in 1950 and its Wallop-Breaux Boating Trust Fund amendment in 1984.

Through this American System of Conservation Funding, more than $14 billion has been entrusted to agencies for fisheries and wildlife restoration and management; hunter, angler and boater access; as well as for hunter and boater safety education.

Creating Connections for Restoration

So it stands to reason that the Vanishing Paradise team attends these huge gatherings to educate, communicate and build partnerships on an equally significant conservation funding event taking place at this very moment for the Mississippi River Delta and other coastal ecosystems along the Gulf of Mexico.

Following the passage of the RESTORE Act —which sportsmen played a key role in pushing over the finish line—the Clean Water Act fines, along with criminal penalties from the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill, number nearly $20 billion. These funds were originally earmarked for Gulf Coast wetlands restoration to rebuild the habitat and create a sustainable resource for hunters, anglers and wildlife. Currently, both the framework and distribution are being determined.

And, even with an act of Congress lighting the path to restoration, we find ourselves still trying to hold BP fully accountable as all tricks-of-the-corporate trade are working to deny justice and restoration to the Gulf.

Vanishing Paradise, its staff and volunteers, are pounding the pavement (and marsh grasses) to educate sportsmen about their  right to healthy ecosystems and the wildlife within.

Protecting Habitat for Future Sportsmen and Women

From the more than 10 million ducks and geese that winter in the Gulf wetlands, to the world-class fisheries that rely on the coastal ecosystem, caring for the habitat has always been the role of hunters and anglers, the manufacturers who build their products, and the outdoor media who communicate to this vast field of stakeholders.

Again, as in years past, ICAST has been a fertile place to move the message of conservation, share the successes and build vision for the future. The generations of hunters and anglers to follow depend on its role if they are to enjoy the same opportunities we have had. We all have skin in this game. Take a closer look at Vanishing Paradise’s partners and supporters. Recognize their deep commitment to conservation and make your voice heard on the critical issues in the Gulf Coast.

About the Author
Lew Carpenter

Lew Carpenter is a Regional Representative for the National Wildlife Federation. He works with NWF's affiliates and other independent organizations in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The groups include thousands of conservation-minded hunters and anglers. He also works with the outdoor writer's community to educate hunters and anglers on the rapid loss of Louisiana wetlands.

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