Game management's roots go back to the early 20th Century. Forestry and forest management provided the primeval soup, a birthing medium, for what is now the science of wildlife management. Aldo Leopold, a forester, and Jay "Ding" Darling probably furthered the cause of wildlife conservation more than anyone else. They were avid hunters but both influenced the protection of wildlife more than anyone in the United States.
Aldo Leopold completed his Game and Fish Handbook for the U.S. Forest Service in 1915. It was highly praised throughout the agency. This was a personal shift away from forestry for Leopold, as well as a recognition by the U.S. Government that game animals were "forest products", that wild species should be managed scientifically, that land should be set aside for refuges with limited cropping, and that profits should be used to enforce game laws and specific management functions. Leopold went on to write Game Management and A Sand County Almanac.
Aldo Leopold eventually developed the first graduate game management program for wildlife biologists at the University of Wisconsin. Many of these biologists are still taught in forestry schools of most state universities. Leopold and Darling also conceived The Wildlife Society. The Society is today an organization designed to promote "excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education". It is a professional society that oversees professional wildlife biologist certification, publishes professional reports, and creates policy.
Wildlife biologists are primary hired by federal and state agencies. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a primary federal hiring agency but biologist are sought by many other federal and state agencies. All 50 states have game and fish agencies or conservation departments. They have been established to enforce game laws and improve conditions for all game species as well as non-game species.
Billions of dollars are spent annually on hunting, fishing, and just plain looking at wildlife. All these activities are economically important to many local communities in the United States and are thriving because of the important work pioneered by Leopold and Darling.