by Steve Sorensen (Originally published in the Warren Times Observer
, August 17, 2013.)
need protection from hunters? No, not in North America, not if “protection”
means putting wildlife off limits. North America has a system which insures
that wildlife thrives and
is accessible to the masses.
A long time
ago when everyone thought wildlife was limitless, and hunters (virtually
everyone at the time) took too many of certain species, populations suffered.
By the 1930s, however, hunters were well on their way to correcting their
errors, and were seeing an ingenious model of conservation come together. It
was a model where hunters were self-limiting – and a model that made North
American wildlife the envy of the world.
created an ingenious model of conservation
that makes them self-limiting.
is the only continent where wildlife depends on these seven core ideas, often
called “the seven sisters of wildlife conservation”:
1. The Public Trust: Most of America’s
colonial settlers rejected the European system where only the wealthy had
access to wildlife. An 1842 Supreme Court decision (Martin v. Waddell)
established that wildlife resources are owned by no one and must be held in
trust by government for the benefit of present and future generations. Canadian
provinces followed the states and government agencies became the caretakers for
the people’s wildlife.
That means I,
you, we own the animals regardless of who owns the land. That’s why, if I
decide to put a high fence around my land, I must make sure I do not keep deer
that belong to the public inside my fence.
2. Prohibitions on Commerce: Prior to
the advent of refrigeration, stockyards, and a transcontinental railroad,
market hunters supplied restaurants with table fare. Beginning in the latter
half of the 1800s, the sale of wildlife was prohibited to ensure the
sustainability of wildlife populations.
and provinces, by unifying to prohibit commerce in wildlife, are better able to
enforce laws and prevent a black market from forming for wildlife meat and
3. Democratic Rule of Law: The
elimination of commerce in wildlife and an open, democratic process makes it
possible to give the masses equal access to wildlife.
prevents any elite class of landowners from controlling wildlife law, and
enables wildlife to be managed by scientific principles.
4. Hunting Opportunity for All: Open
access to wildlife drives the North American model. Public participation, where
everyone has the right to hunt and fish, makes wildlife valuable to everyone.
Other models – where land ownership and social class limit who may hunt –
prevent ordinary people from having access to wildlife, and make wildlife
valuable to only a few.
hunting and fishing egalitarian sports. Anyone can qualify to hunt. No one
needs to be a landowner to hunt because public lands are made available for the
public to hunt.
5. Non-Frivolous Use: Anyone who would
take any animal must have a reason, so guidelines for appropriate use of
animals were established and licenses are issued to permit killing for food and
fur. Laws also allow killing for self-defense and defense of property. These
categories prevent killing for the sake of killing, and killing to acquire such
things as decorative feathers.
principle prevents the wanton waste of wildlife. It creates respect for game
animals. It keeps a deer from being viewed simply as a rack of antlers.
6. International Resources: Since
wildlife and fish can freely cross national and state boundaries, they are
considered an international resource. Broad cooperation is critical for the
model to work – that’s why it’s called the North American model and not the
United States model.
state borders are no more restrictive to wildlife than private property
boundaries. Game animals must be pursued as free creatures, and this gives rise
to the idea of “fair chase.”
7. Scientific Management: Wildlife
management must be based on the best available science. This practice goes all
the way back to the earliest American expeditions where explorers recorded the
diversity of species they came across as they charted the continent. Hunters
and fishermen are themselves amateur naturalists who study the animals and
their habitat as a part of their normal pursuit.
Much of the
money hunters raise for wildlife goes to scientific study so that all species
can be sustained in perpetuity.
wildlife agency sets laws, classifies animals, creates seasons, protects
habitat, establishes enforcement policies, or does anything else critical to any
wildlife species (not just game animals), these “Seven Sisters” are essential
to their work. And hunters support all of them.