Betrayal of Wild Animals and Public Trust

By Janet Piszar

In Feudal Europe, including England, wildlife belonged to the lord whose fief included the land where the wildlife resided. When the United States became independent from England it based its laws largely on English common law.  However, since the newly formed country  had no king, lords, or fiefs, it became  the law of the land that wild free range animals cannot be owned by any entity—individual, sovereign or government.  Wild animals, like oceans, rivers, specified ocean fronts, natural energy sources, etc., are held in trust as publicly owned resources. It remains the basic dictate that publicly owned resources must be managed for the benefit of the public.

As early 19th century life was pervasively agricultural, wildlife management was oriented to accommodate those conditions.  Generally, these laws empowered hunters as policy makers.

In the 1930s, it was recognized that game animals could become a powerful economic engine both for the weapons/hunting industries and the government.   Collaboration was established to create an enduring scheme that would provide continual funding for the restoration and expansion of game animals and their needed habitat.   Nevada Senator Key  Pittman (D) and  Virginia Congressman Absalom Robertson (D) introduced the Pittman-Robertson Act. This legislation became the Federal Aid for Wildlife Restoration Law in 1937. It serves to ensure the on-going purchase of weapons and munitions thereby  perpetuating the culture of and opportunities for recreational  hunting and relieving state governments of the financial burden of wildlife management.

This law enacted an 11% excise tax on hunting equipment and munitions/weaponry that is collected by the United States Department of the Interior, within its Fish and Wildlife Services.  In the formulas for distribution of these funds, the number of hunting licenses sold is a key criterion.  At stake is millions of dollars annually to each state.  Managing game animals above natural and balanced numbers to accommodate recreational hunters and generate revenue is not for the public’s benefit.

Photo of quality management.
All the does will breed no more.

For decades, there has been scrutiny as to this continued privilege for hunters to remain the majority trustees of the publicly owned wildlife. The number of hunters lands are  dramatically decreasing nationwide. Increasingly, the non-hunters, land-owners and other stake holders of the publicly owned wildlife resource are aggressively objecting to management for recreational hunting and trophies.

Challenging the current wildlife management through violations of the PUBLIC TRUST cannot be done in theory alone.  Hard proof  must be compiled to  prove that the Divisions of Fish and Wildlife’s customary practices that  impact game animal populations is not for the public’s benefit.  These investigations to compile proof are the pathway to change for progressive and democratic wildlife management.

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Janet Piszar is Founder and President of PUBLIC TRUST Wildlife Management
P.O. Box 646
Chatham, NJ 07928
Fax (973) 467-2189,


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561