I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day Holiday. As usual, I took a trip to Laurinburg, NC (my hometown) for the opening day of dove hunting season. It got me thinking about our discussion of the Tragedy of the Commons during the first unit.
Mourning doves are migratory game birds meaning they can cross county and state lines. Even though the hunt was on private land, the birds are considered a sort of public resource and so, regulated by the government to prevent overuse. So, yes, they represent a “commons” of sorts (see previous post on the Tragedy of the Commons).
So, how does the government regulate this resource in the public’s interest? First, one must acquire a license to legally hunt the birds. So, the number of people who can “harvest” the resource is limited to those who will pay the fee. Second, there is a season established for the hunt. A hunting season limits the amount of time people can harvest (and typically protects the birds during mating season). Third, daily “bag limits” establish a limit to the number of birds one can legally harvest per person per day.
Do all these regulations prevent abuse of the resource (birds)? No. Abuse occurs by people who have no license (poachers), hunt out of season, and kill more than the legal limit. Regulations do little good unless there is some enforcement. So, some of the funds from the purchase of licenses go toward paying for wildlife officers who can arrest or fine offenders.
Speaking of funds, many hunters join conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited. These organizations use donations for projects like habitat protection or improvement. Hunters often get a bad rap, but those that hunt within legal limits and give back through conservation groups help encourage sustainable use. Is it hard to think of a hunter as a good steward?