Published on September 22nd, 2008 | by Justin Van Kleeck9
Hunters and Helpers: The Conservation Efforts of Hunting and Fishing Organizations
In my post on litterbug hunters, I pointed out some of the environmentally unfriendly and irresponsible actions of this group who uses nature for recreation, sustenance, or other personal reasons. In this post, however, I want to explore the other side of the issue–and thus to highlight the ways that environmentalists and hunters can come together.
While it might be easy to stereotype hunters and fishers as “predators” of both animals and environmental quality, some organizations and many individual hunters are in fact energetic stewards of wildlife and natural habitats. That is, they are “green” even if they (or other ideologues) shun that label.
Ducks Unlimited is one of the largest and most famous hunting organizations that works for conservation. Indeed, it was founded in 1937 by duck hunters because of their concern over the loss of wetlands. Since ducks require wetlands (and other ecosystems), and duck hunters require ducks, Ducks Unlimited has advocated for wetland preservation and taken measures to fight further losses.
But other, lesser known organizations are making equally significant positive impacts on the environment. For example, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), founded in 1973, provides information on habitat preservation to landowners, encourages conservation easements in order to protect turkey habitats (and hunting grounds), and even helps landowners create turkey-friendly environments, among other things. Their Habitat Conservation Program in particular aims to help private and corporate landowners, as well as wildlife agencies, preserve habitat…as well as supporting hunting.
Another model organization is Pheasants Forever (PF), which calls itself “The Habitat Conservation Organization.” As with the NWTF, PF recognizes that environmental responsibility is the best way to ensure that the animals they hunt remain in stable populations. As the organization puts it, “To some, conservation is a word. To Pheasants Forever, it’s a way of life– anything short of a holistic approach to conservation would be unacceptable.”1 This is a pretty powerful, and admirable, vision of stewardship. Since 1982, then, PF has helped pheasant hunters be stewards of the environment while also working to prevent any further degradation of pheasant habitats–especially grasslands, which are extremely threatened by agriculture and other development.
One last organization I want to highlight is Quail Unlimited (QU), founded in 1981. Like PF, QU sees itself foremost as a conservation organization, not just a hunting group. As they explain, “Quail Unlimited was founded in 1981 to battle the problem of dwindling quail populations and declining wildlife habitat and is the oldest national, nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the wise management of America’s wild quail.”2 Their major effort towards habitat preservation is the National Seed Program, which provides donated seed to help landowners provide winter feeding and cover sites for quail. Through this program, other programs, and providing reliable information, QU and its members do more than just hunt quail; they help protect them and their fragile habitats.
While large organizations gather most of the attention, whether positive or negative, we should not forget the countless individual outdoorsmen who do their part for the environment regardless of organizational membership. One example that springs to mind is Ted Williams, who has written eloquently in Audubon and other publications about how hunters can and should be eco-friendly on multiple levels. Similarly, Theodore Roosevelt was an active hunter and was profoundly effective in getting the U.S. government to protect its natural resources. For instance, he founded the first National Bird Preserve, which sparked the National Wildlife Refuge System, and pushed for the U.S. Forest Service.
In the end, it really comes down to the individual hunter, angler, trapper, or other user of nature whether to be environmentally responsible or an eco-predator. And because these individuals are so frequently in nature, their decisions and actions can have an immense effect upon nature. This makes their choice to be stewards such a crucial ingredient in the greater effort to protect the planet.
As my last post will show, I am no fan of hunting or other activity centered on killing animals. But at the same time, I believe that environmentalists (and animal rights activists, too) must reach out to and work with hunters. While the two groups may appear to be on opposite sides of the ideological fence, both of them are residents of this one precious Earth. If they–if WE–are too busy bickering about who is right and wrong, then it becomes all too easy to forget about the bigger picture.
However we get into the wilderness and relate to wildlife, everyone can be an active force for conservation and the environment. I am so pleased, then, that not all hunters are litterbugs and killers and predators…and I hope that these nature lovers will join with environmentalists in a more collective effort to save the natural resources we all enjoy for our own reasons.
In the end, what really matters is how we help rather than hurt the Earth and all its living creatures.
Image credit: Fantagu via Wikimedia Commons.
1. “Pheasants Forever Conservation.” PheasantsForever.org. Pheasants Forever. 22 September 2008 <http://www.pheasantsforever.org/page/1/HabitatSection.jsp>.
2. “Who We Are and What We Do.” Qu.org. Quail Unlimited. 22 September 2008 <http://www.qu.org/content/about_us/who_we_are.cfm>.