By Michael Ellis

Every winter I spend several weekends in the northern Sacramento valley listening to, watching the behavior, and identifying the multitude of birds that are there. One of the many blessings of California is our relatively mild climate and the fact that we still enough habitat to support the millions of waterfowl and other birds who fly south to over- winter here.

Birdwatchers and nature lovers are not the only people who revel in this exhibition of natural abundance. Duck hunters as well enjoy the spectacle. Often when I take folks birding in the refuges they are upset to hear the distant sound of shotgun blasts. I inform them that we have more in common with duck hunters than they may want to admit. All of us enjoy crisp winter mornings and want to see plenty of ducks and geese.

I and other nature observers are what are termed non-consumptive users. In other words we don’t take any part of the resource and we do not need a license or permit to just watch. Hunters on the other hand must pay the state for the right to hunt. Additionally they must purchase a Duck stamp from both the Federal and State Government for the right to shoot ducks and geese. And hunters pay a 10% tax on guns and ammunition that goes directly to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. All these fees which have been collected for decades are the primary source of the revenue that purchases, supports and manages the many wildlife refuges of California and the country.

Why not levy a small tax on the purchase of binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras, film, and bird books? This money could be earmarked for the acquisition of additional lands for the enhancement of wildlife of all kinds. Most people I know would be more than happy to pay a little bit more for these products if they knew the monies were going to a worthy cause.

But until that law comes to pass you can do what I do. Even though I don’t hunt or fish anymore I still buy the licenses. And I also buy the duck stamps. These are great collector’s items and make great gifts. The artwork is superb on them. By this manner I am taxing myself and supporting the refugees. This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

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August 6, 2009