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For more than four decades, Americans have recognized the fourth Saturday in September as National Hunting and Fishing Day.

This year that falls on Sept. 23, and Gov. Doug Burgum has signed a proclamation recognizing that event.

The national focus this year is on mentoring new hunters and anglers, and for good reason. Each new hunter and angler helps fund future conservation. Every time someone buys fishing tackle, a firearm, ammunition or archery equipment, they contribute to habitat conservation and science-based wildlife management through the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program.

The WSFR is the cornerstone of fish and wildlife conservation in North America because it brings funding from the sporting arms, archery and fishing industries and hunters and anglers back to state wildlife management agencies, such as the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

It’s these dollars, combined with hunting and fishing license fees, that continue to create or sustain hunting and fishing opportunities that people enjoy. The Game and Fish Department uses those dollars for activities such as surveying and stocking fishing waters, managing habitat on public lands in the state wildlife management area system and surveying populations and managing hunting seasons for ducks, geese, pheasants, grouse, deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bighorn sheep, doves, cranes, fox and coyote.

Also included are programs to educate new hunters on safety and conservation, and construction of boat ramps and handicap-accessible fishing piers. To put it another way, if it relates to hunting and fishing in North Dakota, hunters and anglers are contributing to it.

The governor’s proclamation describes this American system of conservation funding as “a ‘user pays – public benefits’ approach that is widely recognized as the most successful model of fish and wildlife management in the world.”

What is sometimes overlooked in that message is that any conservation measures that benefit game species typically also benefit other species that are not hunted, fished or trapped. Wildlife, and people who enjoy seeing wildlife, regardless of whether they hunt or fish, are winners because of the foresight of those who created these programs during a time when most game and fish populations were much lower than they are today.

According to the governor’s proclamation, in recent years North Dakota has had about 140,000 resident and nonresident hunters and 220,000 resident and nonresident anglers, who support the state’s economy through annual direct spending of more than $600 million while engaged in their pursuits.

Some other statistics that showcase hunter and angler contributions include:

● As of 2012, hunters and target shooters have paid more than $7.2 billion in excise taxes through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, sometimes called the Pittman-Robertson Act, since its passage in 1937.

● More than 38 million Americans hunt and fish.

● Hunters and anglers support more than 680,000 U.S. jobs.

● Americans annually buy more than 1 billion shotshells.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it provide a good snapshot for why it’s important to annually recognize the significant role that hunters and anglers have in society.

Doug Leier is a biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.