As hunters and anglers, we strive to be good, effective conservationists and leave the world a better place than we found it. But these days, that sure seems like a hefty task.
September is a busy month, full of back-to-school activities, sporting events, and the start of hunting seasons across the nation. We’re all busy, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take a few minutes to give back to the land and the resources that our lifestyle depends on.
Here are five things you can do for wildlife conservation today:
Odds are you’re going to do this one anyways. If you haven’t started hunting already, you’re already thinking about hunting. We all know that one of the most important things that separates law-abiding hunters from poachers is having a valid hunting license. What many folks don’t know is that the cost of that hunting license makes up a critical component of the American System of Conservation Funding—the policy mechanisms that fund conservation in the United States.
Your hunting, fishing, and trapping license dollars, collected by your state, are matched by federal taxes levied on firearms, ammunition, archery tackle, and fishing gear, and then invested in fisheries and wildlife management activities in all 50 states. The amount of federal funds each state can receive is determined in part by the number of licenses sold, so your purchase also ensures that your state fish and wildlife agency is getting its fair share of funding.
State fish and wildlife agencies are on the front lines of wildlife conservation, and though we don’t always agree with them, they do critical work for all manner of wildlife. Hunters, anglers, and trappers must continue to support them with license dollars, as well as with our voices.
Folks don’t always think to do this, but it’s easier than you’d think. We laid it all out a couple weeks ago in this article, and you can use that guide to call your duly elected or appointed officials on anything from the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, to keeping invasive carp out of the Great Lakes or fighting bad conservation easement policy. In short, help push for good policies, rules, or regulations, and push back against the bad ideas for water, wildlife, and public lands.
Outside of calling your federal legislators, there are several other institutions that make decisions that impact us as hunters, anglers, and trappers. Your state legislatures, wildlife commissions, and fish and wildlife agencies are great examples. There is always something going on, for better or for worse, that you can weigh in on. Sometimes, it just takes a little digging to find out what that is and what you can do about it.
If you’d like to do more, get in touch with your local conservation organizations and ask them to point you in the right direction.
Nonprofit organizations do good conservation work every day to ensure that our natural resources are used carefully and thoughtfully. They finance land purchases and habitat restoration, walk the halls of Congress and all 50 state legislatures, and they work hard to educate the public about the importance of active wildlife management. They play an important role in our world, but they need funding from folks like us to do that work.
The MeatEater crew has recommended several conservation organizations that they support, and even created their own through the MeatEater Land Access Initiative. Many of these organizations are also members of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, a coalition of more than 50 organizations that represent the interests of America’s millions of hunter-conservationists, professional wildlife and natural resource managers, outdoor recreation users, conservation educators, and wildlife scientists. They work together to make things better and supporting one of these organizations can help the collective efforts of all of them.
Habitat improvements almost always require labor. Sometimes, it makes good sense for individuals or companies to pay folks to do this, but volunteers are often the driving force behind these projects. Native plants need to be planted, invasive species must be removed, and sometimes whole ecosystems can be modified to become more resilient and promote desirable species of wildlife. In other cases, fences need to be pulled to allow for easier migrations or landscapes that have been degraded by mining, grazing, or wildfires may need to be restored to a healthier state.
Many organizations have programs that allow you to spend a day or two helping improve public lands. If you have your own land, the National Deer Association and others have great resources for how you can improve your local habitat. If you want some more specific help, stop into your local Natural Resource Conservation Service office to get some technical assistance or to see if you might qualify for a private land conservation program so you can get paid to practice good conservation on your property.
Every piece of food, fiber, metal, or fuel that we use comes from somewhere.
Being a conservationist, at some level or another, also means being a conscious consumer. We all have to eat, furnish our homes, and get to and from work; but how we go about doing that has a broader impact on the world around us. Several organizations have started to offer seals or standards to give you some level of certainty about how the products you use are being made. These range from dolphin-safe tuna fish to timber harvested from sustainably managed forests, but you get the gist.
Take a couple minutes to google the organizations behind these labels, find out what they mean, and if they make you feel better about buying from one company or another, then take that into account when you’re putting things into the shopping cart. We can only vote at a ballot box every so often, but we have an opportunity to vote with our wallets every single day, and each of those votes has an impact on the wildlife and wild places that we love.
Of course, one of the best and most enjoyable ways to do this is to raise or harvest these things yourself. And, if you’ve made it this far in this article, I’m guessing hunting, fishing, trapping, foraging, gardening, or farming are well on your radar. Living closer to the land, and knowing exactly where your food comes from, can lead us to some of the greatest acts of modern conservation.
There are plenty of other things you can do for conservation, but this list should give you a healthy start at ways to give back going into hunting season. I hope you take on one or more of these priorities as you head out to the field this fall and give back a little to ensure that the lifestyle we all enjoy can be had in generations to come.
Feature image via Captured Creative.