By Joe Bell
Lately, I’ve been examining Wildlife conservation, both from an historical and a personal viewpoint, as I consider ways that I can give back to a resource that has given me so much over the years.
As I’ve been delving into this subject, two important considerations have stood out. First, virtually all conservation efforts I came across were initialized by single individuals (usually influential and educated) or a powerful organized group. Second, those responsible for backing such early efforts were almost without exception avid hunters.
But it was the influential men of these conservationist movements that really impressed me and inspired me to want to do more. I kept thinking, “How on earth could a single mind, way back when, envision such extraordinary things for our country’s natural resources and wild animals?”
Of course, one of the most prominent people I’m referring to is the great Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th U.S. president who did so much for our natural environment. While in office, Roosevelt — who was a passionate hunter and naturalist — secured nearly 10 percent of our American forests for protection. This included the initialization of the National Park and National Wildlife Refuge Systems and the National Monuments Act.
After Roosevelt came another visionary, Aldo Leopold, who was a biologist, forester, hunter and prolific writer. Leopold gave wildlife conservation a real science-based roadmap to follow through the writing of his book called “Game Management.” However, one of the challenges to implementing Leopold’s blueprint was lack of large-scale funding.
But in 1937, something amazing happened. With the help of sportsmen, firearms manufacturers, and dedicated politicians — who were also devout sportsmen — Congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Act — a revolutionary wildlife restoration fund that captured a 10-percent excise tax on the sale of ammunition and firearms (which later included archery and other outdoor gear) to aid in wildlife restoration.
In the years following this federal assistance, along with revenue generated from state license and tag sales, game agencies began to employ science-based methods to managing game and once dwindling animal populations began to grow and prosper at an incredible rate. Seventy years later, this program stands as one of the greatest political success stories ever put into law.
During this wildlife-management progression, a set of specific principles came about that were responsible for this tremendous success. It’s known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and it’s followed by every game agency today. Personally, every American hunter — person, really — should become familiar with these guidelines. It consists of seven rules, otherwise known as the “seven pillars of conservation.” They are as follows:
Rule #1 – Wildlife Belongs to the Public
Animals belong to U.S. citizens and are managed for the people by various government agencies.
Rule #2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife
Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations.
Rule #3 – Democratic Rule of Law
Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process where everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to develop systems of wildlife conservation and use.
Rule #4 – Hunting Opportunity for All
Under law, every citizen has the right to hunt and fish, regardless of social or economic status.
Rule #5 – Non-Frivolous Use
You have the right to take certain wild animals under strict guidelines for food and fur, self-defense and property protection, but laws restrict against the casual killing of wildlife merely for antlers, horns or feathers.
Rule #6 – International Resource
Wildlife and fish freely migrate across boundaries between states, provinces and countries, so, they are considered an international resource.
Rule #7 – Scientific Input
Science must be used as a base for informed decision making in properly managing wildlife.
Hunters & Conservation
Wildlife management just doesn’t occur without someone’s help. The next time you run into an anti-hunter, or even someone who’s confused about how hunters play into game conservation, be sure to share the facts. Truth is, without hunter dollars, animals would be in significant peril.
But don’t take it from me. Take it from Teddy Roosevelt himself, who said: “In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”
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