Let’s face it, hunters and fishermen are under attack. The proposed budget from the White House would gut protections for wildlife habitat and clean air and water. Elsewhere in Washington, we’ve got powerful forces trying to “dispose” of our federally managed public land hunting and fishing grounds. At the same time, animal rights advocates continue to manipulate the court systems in their never-ending war against science-based management of our fish and game resources. It’s scary out there.
But all is not lost. There are some very effective sportsmen-based conservation groups working hard for hunters and anglers and the fish and game species that we pursue. By supporting one or more of these groups, it’s possible to join the fight against these attacks on hunting and fishing.
The best conservation groups have a proven track record of spending the vast majority of their budget on the ground, where it counts. Wildlife research, habitat enhancement projects, and improved sportsman access through property purchases and conservation easements are a few examples of what good conservation groups do. Effective conservation groups also tend to invest in projects that have wide-ranging benefits for the environment as a whole and not just species targeted by hunters and anglers. And, the most powerful organizations are those who engage in hunter and angler advocacy on Capitol Hill. These groups have the political clout necessary to navigate the legislative mazes aimed at undermining the hunting and fishing lifestyle.
For hunters and anglers wondering where they should invest their hard-earned dollars, these conservation groups have proven to be good investments:
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
TRCP helps create federal policy and funding solutions by uniting partners and amplifying the voices of American sportsmen and women through Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy. TRCP is actively involved in sportsmen access and public lands advocacy, the importance of our outdoor recreation economy, wildlife habitat, clean water and other hunter and angler advocacy issues. In 2015 81% of their budget went to programs benefiting hunters and anglers. Steven Rinella was honored to accept the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s 2017 Conservation Achievement Award.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. RMEF is committed to: conserving, restoring and enhancing natural habitats; promoting the sound management of wild elk, which may be hunted or otherwise enjoyed; restoring elk to their native ranges; and educating members and the public about habitat conservation and our hunting heritage. RMEF has protected over 7 million acres of elk habitat and opened up over one million acres of ground to hunters. Their work benefits not only elk but everything from sage grouse and antelope to cutthroat trout and mule deer. RMEF is active throughout the U.S. and has helped to restore native elk populations in eight states where elk had been absent for many years. An impressive 91% of their budget goes towards program services such as habitat restoration and permanent land protection.
National Wild Turkey Federation
Through habitat enhancement projects, hunter recruitment efforts and opening up more access for hunters, the NWTF has been a huge part of successfully expanding turkey hunting opportunities throughout the United States over the past few decades. In 1973, there were 1.5 million wild turkeys in America. Today there are over 7 million. NWTF actively develops programs for new turkey hunters and their Save the Habitat Save the Hunt initiative benefits conservation efforts for turkeys and other wildlife. Over 80% of their revenue goes towards education, conservation activities and program services.
Ducks Unlimited has a long history of waterfowl and wetlands conservation in America. They work with government agencies and landowners to restore grasslands, forests, wetlands and watersheds to protect and enhance waterfowl habitat. Through DU conservation easements and land purchases, hunter access is improved. DU uses science-based research that benefits waterfowl and the environment as a whole. They’ve raised over 2 billion dollars for conservation and last year 84% of DU’s expenditures were converted directly to conservation work vital to ducks, geese and other wetland-dependent wildlife.
TU mission goes beyond trout fishing. Clean watersheds are crucial to a healthy environment and TU works to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Trout Unlimited believes that conservation should be a true partnership between landowners, agencies, municipalities, and anglers. Trout Unlimited protects critical habitat to reconnect degraded waterways and restore coldwater fisheries. TU successfully advocates for protecting native species, public land access and angler opportunity. 87% of Trout Unlimited’s revenue goes back towards habitat preservation and restoration and other conservation programs.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters. The membership of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers values access to wild lands and wildlife. BHA is a politically motivated voice for hunters and anglers across the country. BHA’s budget has grown substantially in just a few years through donations and membership dues and they are a strong political advocate for hunters and anglers.
There are many other national and regional hunting and fishing conservation groups out there doing great work that benefits hunters and anglers. But, as important and effective as these large organizations are, it’s also a good idea to search out local conservation groups. Local groups are a good avenue for hunters and anglers to voice their concerns and promote change quickly. They also offer volunteer opportunities that will directly benefit hunting, fishing and conservation efforts in the area you live in.
Protecting our hunting and fishing lifestyles is going to require active engagement from all outdoorsmen and women. Now more than ever before, it is our duty to join a sportsmen-based conservation group. By spending just a few dollars on a membership or donation, you’ll be investing in the future of hunting and fishing.