Despite global trade troubles, Hides for Habitat back for 2018
A growing trade war, changing environmental regulations in China and a global oversupply of animal hides nearly killed a longstanding conservation program in Minnesota. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association's annual Hides for Habitat program app...
A growing trade war, changing environmental regulations in China and a global oversupply of animal hides nearly killed a longstanding conservation program in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association's annual Hides for Habitat program appeared doomed earlier this week - just weeks before the state's firearms deer hunting season kicks off - when no wholesale hide buyers offered an acceptable bid. The problem is that Chinese tanneries have been closing due to increasing environmental regulations there.
China also has imposed a 25 percent tariff on imported hides, adding to the problem, as the trade war with the U.S. heats up.
On top of that there is an oversupply of animal hides on the global market, which has caused the price to tank, said Craig Engwall, executive director of the Grand Rapids-based Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.
"We put it out for bids as usual and we didn't get any takers. So we called and asked what was going on. ... It's really complicated,'' Engwall said. "We could have handled the tariff, I think. But there's just no market in China now."
With the help of volunteers from 60 different association chapters, the Hides for Habitat program collects hides at hundreds of locations across the state, donated by hunters after the animal is butchered. The hides are tanned - in what can be a messy, chemical-intense process - then made into leather goods. Last year the association received about $7.25 for each of the 20,000 hides donated (down from more than $10 in 2015). Since the program started in 1985 it has collected nearly 900,000 hides and raised more than $5.3 million, which has gone to bolster wildlife habitat across the state.
The program also is a way to make sure more of the animal is used - in effect recycled - and not landfilled or left in the woods, supporters note.
But through Oct. 8 this year the best offer the association could get from hide buyers was $3 for large hides and $1 for average or small ones.
"We wouldn't even break even at that cost. There's a lot of work involved,'' Engwall said.
The association was just about to cancel the program. But then a better offer surfaced just this week - $3.50 for every hide - that the association and its members can live with.
"It's less than half what we got last year. But it's enough to make it worthwhile,'' Engwall said. "We can keep the program going, not miss a year, and hope it gets better in the future."
Engwall said wholesale hide buyers likely will be warehousing the hides until the global market improves and new tanneries can be built.
Hide drop-off boxes should be out by late October at hundreds of locations across Minnesota and will stay out until early December.
For more information on the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the hides program, including where you can find boxes to donate your hide, visit mndeerhunters.com or call (800) 450-3337.