What is the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust “Conserving?”


At the U.S. Senate hearing this week, Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle testified against the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, legislation designed to protect hunters and anglers from attempts to curtail their activities. One provision of the bill seeks to stop a key bit of activism that Pacelle’s group is pushing: A ban on lead ammo in hunting. Lead ammunition is the most common and affordable ammunition; a national ban on lead ammo in hunting (or at shooting ranges) would certainly reduce the number of people hunting. Ironically, that would actually be bad for conservation.

Every time someone buys a gun or ammunition, they pay a tax under the Pittman-Roberston Act. That money is given to states to help them conserve land. The money generated through the Act, as well as the sale of state hunting licenses, adds up to billions of dollars.

If HSUS wants to reduce the number of hunters—and thus the amount of money going into conservation—we should check HSUS’s own record on conservation. HSUS runs the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (HSWLT), which claims its goals are to create “permanent sanctuaries, preserving and enhancing natural habitat” and to “oversee the lands under its protection.”

But despite collecting more than $20 million in revenue over the past 5 years, HSWLT only controls around 18,500 acres.

To understand just how minuscule HSWLT land holdings are, it is worth noting that the website Landwatch.com is currently selling 200,000 acres in Colorado for under $2 million – for that price, you could own far more land than HSWLT oversees. A quick search of the website will turn up many other similarly sized plots for a comparable cost. In comparison, another sanctuary group The Nature Conservancy protects nearly 120 million acres worldwide and the group Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13 million acres in North America.

Perhaps the paltry amount of acreage under its ownership can be attributed to the fact that the wildlife trust spends 75% of its budget on “education” rather than conservation. HSUS’s land trust is really only conserving the jobs of direct-mail producers.

It is clear that HSUS does not have a seat at the table when it comes to conservation. While successful programs (such as the Pittman-Robertson Act) have disbursed over $8 billion towards land conservation efforts since 1939, HSWLT has proven itself to be entirely ineffective. It’s another case of HSUS policy agenda simply making things worse.