The Conservation Funding Crisis

Feb 14, 2020

Two turkeys with tails fanned out.
The next time you venture out in Tennessee’s great outdoors, take a minute to pause and look around you.

What we have today didn’t get here by accident.

Tennessee needs to prioritize funding conservation work and programs or risk losing the progress we’ve made for our wildlife, water, and wild places.

In the early 1900s, Tennessee had only 20,000 deer left. Elk hadn’t been seen in Tennessee for more than a century. Turkey existed only in a pocket or two of the state—the estimated nationwide population was a shockingly small 30,000.

That was a turning point. A movement started and ever since, Tennessee Wildlife Federation has been working methodically to bring our wildlife populations back from the brink.

Sportsmen came together to create licensed hunting and fishing. Harvest limits were based on science and the license fees—as well as a special tax on hunting equipment—paid for wildlife management in the state.

It worked but it took time, as everything with nature does. Much of the wildlife we commonly see today was anything but common just a generation ago.

But this success is at risk.

Tennesseans are beginning to forget what it was like not that long ago. At the same time, the model that funds wildlife conservation is failing. It relies on hunters and anglers to pay for virtually all fish and wildlife management—through special taxes on equipment sales and license purchases—but their numbers are declining significantly. 

Because fewer understand that our waters, wildlife, and wild places are teetering on the edge, we have to continue to champion successful conservation. The Federation is the voice of sportsmen and conservationists like you while fighting for more funding to maintain what we have.

That could be from federal bills such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and Restore Our Parks Act. Or Tennesseans may once again come together early this century—just like they did early last century—to make sure we’re able to conserve this great state.

We’re not ready to stop advocating for Tennessee’s unique biodiversity and natural heritage. And we know you’re not either.



Featured photo by John Ray

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