The Catholic Church has the Vatican. Cheeseheads have Lambeau Field. Conservationists have the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Yet, even here, our wildlife and wild places are taxed — and more so every year as our populations balloons. Condos replaced the pronghorn that roamed around the edge of town (19th) in the 90s. Bluebird and meadowlark meadows get turned into parking lots.

We still get bears walking through our schools, but “it ain’t like it used to be.”

If the next generation is going to have any semblance of the wild place the GYE (much less, the rest of the world) once was, we all need to put skin in the game.

I run a wildlife conservation non-profit based in Manhattan, Montana, called 2% for Conservation.

Our mission is: “To ensure the future of hunting and angling by creating an alliance of businesses and individuals that give their time and money to fish and wildlife conservation.”

Yeah, we hunt, and we like to keep fish to eat too. As long as it’s sustainable and ethical.

That said, some hunters and anglers like to hide behind taxes from their licenses and gear that goes into a federal pool of dollars to be dispersed to the state agencies. It’s the bulk of the wildlife funding states have, but it’s never been enough. Had it ever been “enough,” Ducks Unlimited wouldn’t have been founded within the same year as the tax program.

If buying a hunting/fishing license was enough, we wouldn’t need groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or the Wild Sheep Foundation (founding partners of ours) to bring charismatic megafauna back from the edge.

Hunting isn’t “conservation.” It’s a conservation tool. Giving back to ecosystems shouldn’t end at a federal tax.

If paying a tax on ammo and licenses every year makes me a “conservationist,” then call me a school teacher too, because my property taxes go to my kids’ school.

This cop-out has cost us. As anyone working in the space will tell you, it’s not the typical “10% doing 90% of the work.” It’s more like .01% providing 99.99% of the volunteer work and private funding.

That is what 2% for Conservation is tackling. One percent of your time plus 1% of your dollars equals 2% for conservation. We have a growing membership, around the globe, giving back. You can’t buy a membership; you must do the work.

To get “2% certified,” businesses must show that they have committed to give at least 1% of time and 1% of sales to conservation.

For individuals (because we’re international) it’s more of an “honor system.” Bad “conservation karma” sucks, #lymesdisease. The goal is to promote giving back where you live.

We don’t dictate where you give. It’s more sustainable that way. We also count donations that aren’t cash. Products, services and even banquet and pint night tickets/raffles. Those are often more valuable for the causes than a cash donation.

We have all kinds of certified businesses. Engineers, coffee roasters, clothing brands, outfitters and even a children’s book company.

A few noteable businesses that are 2% certified in the Bozeman area are Sitka Gear (we were founded out of their offices), Stone Glacier, 406 Brewing, Seacat Creative and Fermentana. There are more, but hey, there’s a word limit with these op-eds!

Certified individual members range from teenage babysitters (for real — the kids put the “2% certified” logo on their business cards), plumbers, ranchers, Canadian border patrol officers, Scottish accountants, Floridian retirees. You get the idea.

I’m well aware that there are thousands of people in this valley giving back well beyond our very attainable baseline “2% standard.” It’s not the same everywhere else. But, those regions often follow our example.

Will you commit to the 2% standard or do you live here to “take what you can while you can?”

If you’re already giving back, we’d love to have you join us. Again, it’s free and there are perks with some of our businesses.

Businesses, let’s talk. Your community should know how much you’ve been doing for them.

Jared Frasier is the executive director of 2% for Conservation.