“The hunter-environmentalist lives today at a historical moment when new and creative tactics — not just new in light of the last hundred years, but of the last twenty-five — need to be looked at and tried if those parts of our environment that are most worth maintaining are going to be.”
— Thomas McIntyre
In an eloquent article from the Columbus Dispatch last Sunday, outdoor writer Dave Golowenski reported on a new partnership between several large hunting, fishing and conservation groups including Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and Pheasants Forever. The aim of the alliance, brought together with help from the Bipartisan Policy Center, is educating hunters and fishers about the threats global warming poses to the game they love and the culture and traditions that have sprung up around the pursuit of those creatures.
On their new Web site, seasonsend.org, the groups outline the likely consequences if policymakers and industry heads don’t take sweeping action to slow global warming. In the Midwest, a 39 percent reduction in duck numbers could result from steep water declines in the Great Lakes and the prairie pothole region. In the Mississippi Valley, grasslands and pasture could replace the current range of forests, fragmenting and reducing populations of large animals like deer, elk, moose and bear. Up to 50 percent of current trout and salmon habitat may be lost nationwide before the end of the century. Warmer rivers and lakes will promote continued expansion of noxious invasive plant and animal species that can decimate native flora and fauna.
The groups also don’t beat around the bush when it comes to placing blame for climate change. Human fingerprints are all over it, they say, and they cite peer-reviewed scientific studies on the Web site to support the assertion.
Visitors to the Web site can also sign up to receive a free copy of Seasons’ End and Beyond Seasons’ End. The former book lays out the science in clear terms and runs down the litany of damage global warming has already caused to game habitats across the country. The latter book charts a path forward and calls for a new conservation commitment, and
urges sportsmen and sportswomen to consider pressing their state and federal leaders for drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and for more funding for fish and wildlife management. Visitors to seasonsend.org can download a free copy of both publications. I’ve ordered Beyond Seasons’ End for my sister and brother- in-law in Green Bay, accomplished hunters and fishers who spend much of their free time in the woods or on the water.
As guest blogger John Ingham noted in a recent Climate Chronicle post, the people closest to the land are among those feeling most uneasy about the changes to our climate. And yet the issue remains controversial with many in the Field & Stream tribe, a majority of whom tend toward the right side of the political spectrum.
Saying so may get me in trouble with some of my friends, but there would be fewer wild and protected places, and much less biological diversity in those places, if there were fewer hunters and fisherfolk tromping around in them. It’s worth noting that many of our nation’s greatest conservationists have been gun-and-tackle-toting harvesters of flesh. Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter are two of the best-known examples. Although I can’t find evidence that former Wisconsin governor, senator and founder of Earth Day Gaylord Nelson was a hunter, Aldo Leopold certainly was. I’ve no doubt both men enjoyed dipping a line in one of our clear streams or lakes from time to time. For every taxpayer dollar directed to conservation, hunters and fishers contribute several more through the taxes and fees they lay out for equipment and licenses.
Whatever you may think about blood sport, we’d be in a far worse position to mitigate climate change and adapt to it without the work of the people who fill the ranks of groups like the Boone and Crockett Club and the Izaak Walton League. Wisconsin’s forest tracts, many of which owe their preservation to hunters and fishers, absorb and sequester vast amounts of carbon, and shade our vulnerable rivers and streams. Many of those rivers and streams have been restored with revenues earned through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, or directly through donations of money and labor from Trout Unlimited volunteers. Those healthy and relatively abundant waters will cushion us from more frequent droughts like the one that has gripped Wisconsin’s northern counties for the past several years.
It’s encouraging to see groups like Ducks Unlimited and BASS/ESPN Outdoors drawing a bead on climate change. It’s even more exciting to think of the political power an alliance of jerky chompers and granola crunchers could bring to bear on the struggle to curb greenhouse gas emissions. At least they’re both now pursuing the same quarry.