Op-Ed: Hunting is Part of National Economic Recovery by Steve Kline


As the days get shorter, hunters and anglers across the Delmarva Peninsula get ready for fall hunting and fishing seasons. The tug of a trophy striper off Bloody Point or a flock of Canada geese setting down into a decoy spread will get the blood of Eastern Shore sportsmen and women pumping faster, and the anticipation for a productive autumn afield is building across the region.

Hunting and fishing aren’t just hobbies on the Eastern Shore, they represent a way of life that has helped to define what it means to ‘cross the bridge,’ both literally and figuratively. Outdoor recreation is a huge economic driver for Delmarva. A duck hunter who launches his boat at Kent Narrows pays the county to use the facilities, fuels his boat up at the local gas station, gets the ethanol build-up knocked off his outboard at the small engine repair shop, and of course buys a hunting license that funds important conservation work all across the region. He buys ice and lunch at the corner deli, and when the day is done relaxes with friends at the local watering hole.

Taken in total, Delmarva hunters and anglers contribute more than $1.5 billion dollars to the economy annually, and support thousands of jobs. Yet in the discussion of creating jobs, or even protecting the ones we already have, outdoor recreation is unfortunately often missing from the conversation.

How can policy makers at all levels ensure that the future of hunting and fishing is bright? One great step in the right direction would be to restore the water quality of the Chesapeake and her creeks, rivers, and wetlands by continuing to move forward on the development and execution of the Watershed Implementation Plans. These plans, often referred to as a pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay, set necessary goals for reducing harmful runoff into the Chesapeake watershed. They present the clearest way forward in a generation of Bay efforts.

Elected officials and interest groups have found it easy to bemoan the cost of the Chesapeake Bay pollution diet. Restoring the Bay has costs. But the costs of inaction are more severe than anyone anticipates. As water quality continues to degrade, the impact on commercial and recreational fisheries, hunting, boating, and other forms of economically important outdoor pursuits will be substantial. When we talk about cleaning up the Chesapeake and restoring water quality, it isn’t just conservation for conservation’s sake. But an integral part of the Eastern Shore’s economic well-being.

Steve Kline is the Director of the Center for Agricultural Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. An avid waterfowl hunter, he lives in Centreville.

About Dave Wheelan

Letters to Editor

  1. Perhaps a rethink of how we look at environmental issues is necessary. The most telling sentence here is your third to last one…”As water quality continues to degrade, the impact on commercial and recreational fisheries, hunting, boating, and other forms of economically important outdoor pursuits will be substantial.” This begs the obvious question of why are we creating so many regulations and spending so much money to clean up the waterways and yet water quality continues to degrade? Perhaps it’s time to recognize that pollution is not a regulation issue but is a trespass issue. Perhaps it’s time to empower hunters, waterman, farmers, etc. on the Eastern Shore to protect their recreational and occupational opportunities rather than relying on public policy to protect them. I think they might find that some of the institutions that they are expecting to help them may actually be some of the institutions that are trespassing against them.

    • How is water degradation a “trespass issue”? Explain, please.

      • Simple, if a stream flows through your property that you get your drinking water from and someone or some institution up stream is polluting it, aren’t they are trespassing on your property just as if they were dumping trash in your front yard? How is the most effective way to keep someone from dumping trash in your front yard? Do you pass a law banning people from dumping trash in your front yard or do you file criminal charges against the trespasser?

        Obviously, there are far too many players involved in the degradation of the Chesapeake watershed to file criminal charges against everyone, but the thought balloon I’m trying to get out here is a change of mindset from seeing legislation as the magical elixir that you rely on to solve your problems and to take more personal ownership and responsiblity of what you have. The problem I see is that if you give the government the power to fix your problem via legislation, you also give the government the power to fix someone else’s problems at your expense.

        • It’s not a “trespass” if the water flows through your property. It may be some other tort, but I’m not an attorney.
          You may be interested in this: ask the commissioners’ office for a copy of the recent letter from lawyer Chip MacLeod representing Dorchester County with reference to the buildup of sediments and pollutants behind Conowingo Dam. MacLeod’s letter has several new ideas you may be looking for.

          • joe diamond says:

            You are both right,

            Trespass is actually a person going on to land without permission of the owner. And there is a whole body of law known as Riparian (river) Rights that discusses damning, polluting and diversion of water.

            All this is a walk in the park compared to what the Army Corp of Engineers has tried to do to land owners with soil that gets damp from time to time. Since the Corp controls “navigable” waterways if land is wet they own it and you. They have been asked to back off by the courts over the years but their intention to expand their control is instructive.

            Freedom to Farm legislation my protect a farmer from lawsuits regarding the odd corn husk that blows around but the Environmental Protection Agency may insist on a catalytic converter on your cow and a collection plan for it’s manure. It goes on like that. Runoff is being very closely watched by several agencies.


          • Steve Payne says:

            RE: Conowingo Dam

            The letter points out that since the lake is full of silt it runs out when there’s a flood. I would also point out that since the lake is full of silt it cannot hold as much water. Therefore the speed of the water which can’t be retained is increased even if silt isn’t. This causes erosion downstream.

        • Steve Payne says:

          Running waters are considered public even if located on private property. Even surface drainage in some cases. Like Joe says, laws having to do with water and it’s use go back to colonial times. Pollution regulations of those waters comes from those rights.

  2. joe diamond says:

    The hunting and fishing component of the local economy is a small bright spot. It cannot be enlarged quickly. It could shrink or vanish quickly for many reasons.

    The whole point of the natural resources laws is to control the harvest of excess game and fish while maintaining an ongoing population of animals for the future. Migratory birds are subject to hunting pressure and environmental stress all along their annual route and cannot be hunted in the northern nesting grounds. Fish are more on their own as they migrate to the oceans but the idea is the same. This area is a small part of a very large dynamic system.

    The local fields, streams and rivers can be controlled. Sudden changes in their management will produce very quick changes for animal populations.
    So I can see some regulation of what goes into streams and what is grown on fields. The Bay fishery likewise needs to be monitored. All this has been going on for quite some time. It is this monitoring that needs the input of science and not economic pressure. The number of government agencies monitoring the region has been growing and there has been disputes among the regulators. We may be at a point where the din of commercial, recreational and governmental regulators grid locks maintenance or improvement of the situation.


    • Joe, your last two sentences says it all. When the regulators begin disputing each other, the goal no longer becomes preserving the environment but becomes preserving political turf.

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.