by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the
Forest Press, August 1, 2012.)
Hunters should be poster boys
for locally grown food.
change. There was a time when the word “conservationist” was almost synonymous
with “hunter” or “fisherman.” No longer.
for more years than we can count, outdoorsmen have been the most
environmentally friendly people on earth, and were accepted as such by nearly
everyone. Hunters respected nature, understood the relationships between
animals and their habitat, and invested themselves in keeping those
relationships healthy. When they’ve realized they were doing something that
hurt the environment, even if they were the culprits, they’ve been first to
lobby for change.
hunters are under fire for being enemies of the environment when the truth is
that they’re the greatest friends the natural world has ever had. North
American wildlife would be in dire straits if it weren’t for the greatest
conservationists the world has ever seen – American hunters.
environmentalists advocate for values that hunters have held for generations.
When it comes to meat, hunters eat more organically produced food than anyone.
It hasn’t been injected with growth-inducing hormones, or crowded into
constricting fences or cages. No one can link hunting with so-called “evil”
messages encourage us to eat locally grown food – food that doesn’t waste
resources by trips of hundreds or even thousands of miles to market. The truth
is that hunters should be poster boys for that idea. Fully 95% of hunters do
most of their hunting within a few miles of home – yet don’t get the credit
backyard gardeners get for eating tomatoes and broccoli.
back in the 1980s, the Wall Street Journal featured a story about a new wave of
urban restaurants that served “stress-free meats,” but stress-free meat is
commonly available in the homes of hunters.
hunters kill with bullets and arrows, but without hunters animals still die.
Few wander off and die a peaceful death, curled up on comfort. Virtually all of
them would eventually die slowly from malnutrition or disease, by being maimed
in violent collisions with tons of steel, or by being eaten alive by merciless
predators. The truth? Modern hunters are the world’s most humane predators.
some anti-hunting organizations make lots of noise about conserving habitat for
wildlife, what all of those organizations do collectively is miniscule compared
to the way hunters and fishermen step up for wildlife conservation on both
private and public lands.
to the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937,
hunters have given $5.3 billion to their state game agencies for the privilege
to hunt. That includes
special excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, bows and arrows and other gear.
Amazingly, hunters were the chief advocates for this during the Depression-era
depths of genuine hunger in this nation.
continue to generate as much as $324 million in annual taxes through this
program, one of the few federal programs no one accuses of being unsuccessful.
In fact, it has been so successful that in the 1950s, the Dingell-Johnson
Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Act was passed to benefit fish in similar ways.
besides the billions that hunters pour into state coffers for the management of
wildlife and its habitat, hunters contribute billions more to the various
conservation organizations. But look up “list of conservation organizations” in
Wikipedia, and you won’t find a single hunter-funded organization – not the
National Wild Turkey Federation, not Ducks Unlimited. None.
not because hunters care only about animals they hunt. Every single
hunter-supported conservation organization recognizes the interdependency of
wildlife, and invests in the overall health of wildlife habitat. They sponsor
projects that support countless species. If we’d turn the welfare of Africa’s
elephants, Siberia’s tigers, and Canada’s polar bears over to hunters, these
species and others that share their habitat would likely thrive.
was hunters who launched the industry of wildlife conservation, and wildlife
would be rare without hunters. Yet, hunters are a small minority of the overall
population. Ask anyone, “Do you love wildlife?” Everyone will say they do. But
ask, “What have you done for wildlife?” Most people do very little compared to
what hunters do.
No doubt the vast majority of hunters are “green.” No,
not green with envy. Not green in the sense of having wealth. Not green, in
mimicry of some alien life form. Hunters are proud to be the original
environmentalists. Everyone else is a johnny-come-lately to the world of
wildlife advocacy and conservation. Hunters were first, and should be proud of
the contributions they’ve made and continue to make.