Since the early 1930's, calls have been made for a uniting of hunters and nonhunters in support of wildlife conservation in the public sector. Today, however, such an alliance remains largely unfounded, with government wildlife agencies continuing to depend heavily on sportsmen for financial support.
One type of hunter/nonhunter coalition which has been discussed over the years is that combining hunters with bird-watchers (or birders). If policy makers and government
agencies conclude that such a union is indeed desirable, they will need information as to the compatibility of the beliefs held by birders, hunters, and wildlife professionals
with respect to the importance and management of wildlife. To help obtain this information, a self-administered, mail-back questionnaire was sent to each individual within
random samples of bird-watchers (N = 180), hunters (N = 111), and wildlife professionals (N = 168). The results indicated that, though the beliefs held by the three groups differ in some ways with respect to the importance and management of wildlife, these differences seem not to pose insurmountable barriers to a union of the groups in support of wildlife. General agreement exists among them as to the ways in which wildlife are valuable, the importance of habitat preservation, the role of sport hunting in wildlife management, and desirability of tapping the financial resources of the general public to finance increased nongame management. However, though they hold much in common, the
financial resources of bird-watchers flow to private conservation organizations, while hunters and wildlife professionals lend financial support to public conservation efforts.
A union of the groups might well be fashioned on the now-existent framework of state agency programs, with wildlife professionals acting as facilitators and mediators. Importantly, however, the appeal of state management efforts must be broadened if the agencies expect to capture the attention of nonconsumptive wildlife enthusiasts. New
programs of a nongame orientation around which bird-watchers can subsequently be rallied might be financed through shortterm or long-term use of general tax revenues. For those agencies that would shy from increased dependence on such legislative appropriations, the possibility exists that this dependence could eventually be lessened by replacing general tax revenues with earmarked funds generated through special programs such as selling of permits for recreational use of public lands, selling of wildlife stamps and decals, sales tax levies, selling of nature publications, and surcharge programs.
Encouragingly, birders, hunters, and wildlife professionals appear to be on parallel paths to the same end, wildlife conservation. However, until nonconsumptive wildlife enthusiasts perceive that public wildlife agencies are full-time representatives of their interests, or until funding mechanisms are developed which make their participation in public programs mandatory, their resources will flow to wildlife conservation programs in the private sector, and remain largely untapped by government wildlife agencies.