Modern wildlife management principles in the United States are guided by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The Model was developed by concerned sportsmen in the 1800s who were witnessing their wildlife disappear under ever increasing hunting pressure. The European model maintains that wildlife is reserved for the elite population, while the North American Model declares that everyone has an equal opportunity to hunt and fish. Other values it includes are that wildlife be sustainable, equitably distributed, and calls for the use of science in management. The consumers of wildlife should be responsible for the cost of that resource conservation. Therefore, in Louisiana, those public conservation efforts are funded by the licenses and fees that wildlife consumers pay, and take no money from the General Fund.
In 1842, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Martin v. Waddell that wildlife resources did not belong to anyone, but rather belonged to everyone with the state serving as the trustee to ensure stewardship. The ruling stated that the government should manage wildlife on behalf of the people, for current and future generations.
In 1896, the Supreme Court clearly articulated the theory of state ownership of wildlife (Geer v. Connecticut) and made the first explicit reference to wildlife as a public trust resource.
President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration saw the need for wildlife management law. Following Roosevelt’s presidency were actions such as the 1930 American Game Policy Act and the 1937 Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act that set a precedent for the role of science over politics as the proper tool to for wildlife management. Comprehensive conservation principles and their scientific application led to increased professional management of hunting programs. As a result, hunting is accessible to citizens of all social classes in the United States and Canada, a feature not found in many other conservation models.
The North American Model for Wildlife Conservation is summarized by the following seven principles:
#1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust
The government is charged with stewarding and protecting natural resources, and the public holds government accountable for managing wildlife for use by all, ensuring its sustainability for future generations.
#2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife
Unregulated markets for wildlife effectively privatize public resources and lead to their decline.
#3 – Democratic Process of Rule Making
Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process. Everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to comment on and participate in the development of rules for use and conservation.
#4 – Hunting Opportunity for All
Every citizen has an opportunity to lawfully hunt and fish in the United States and Canada.
#5 – Non-Frivolous Use
This principle holds that wildlife should be killed for legitimate purposes. Examples of legitimate uses include for food, fur, self-defense and protection of property. It is unlawful and unethical to frivolously kill wildlife.
#6 – International Resources
Wildlife and fish do not recognize political boundaries. Therefore, working together, the United States and Canada jointly coordinate wildlife and habitat management strategies. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 demonstrates this cooperation. The Act made it illegal to capture or kill migratory birds, except as allowed by specific hunting regulations.
#7 – Scientific Management
Sound science is essential to managing and sustaining North America’s wildlife and habitats. This principle was inspired by Aldo Leopold who wrote in the 1930s that trained wildlife biologists should make decisions based on facts, professional experience, and shared principles rather than special interests.