Conservation. A quick Google search defines this word as “preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife.” When some people think of conservation they picture state parks, restoration projects, or nature centers. Other people, for example those in agriculture, think of conservation as soil management and using better practices in crop and livestock production that are better for the environment. However there is an industry out there that is sometimes overlooked in their efforts for conservation. The hunting industry works every day to achieve goals in conservation and without conservation, there is nothing to hunt.
How have hunters helped with conservation?
Hunters in today’s society can have a negative image in the eyes of the general public because the media tends to focus on the very low percentage of hunters doing illegal activities such as poaching. What does not get noticed by people is the fact that hunters play a very big role in conservation, not only with the habitat but also with the wildlife. Laws and regulations set by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are there for the purpose of ensuring that populations of different wildlife species are well managed. Hunters are required to abide by these laws and regulations. The DNR issues licenses and fees for the ability to hunt and the money from this alone, which is almost $800 million a year, goes towards conservation programs. Other contributors for conservation programs include taxes on guns, ammunition, bows and arrows, and memberships to non-profit organizations.
The role of non-profit organizations in conservation.
There are several non-profit organizations throughout the country that make it their goal to make conservation better for future generations. Some of these organizations include the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Ducks Unlimited (DU), and Whitetails Unlimited (WU). These organizations do very large amounts of work for conservation, which is largely accomplished by volunteers. Without volunteer efforts in each and every single one of these organizations, conservation would not have come this far. One example is with the NWTF, who has a 10 year initiative to conserve or enhance 4 million acres of critical upland habitat, create 1.5 million hunters, and open access to 500,000 additional acres for hunting.
All of these organizations host regional and national banquets that are used as fundraisers to raise money for conservation. The conservation effort is strongly encouraged at these banquets and having participated in them myself, I get to see this first hand. I have had the privilege to attend NWTF National Convention two years in a row and the atmosphere that is created by hunters and our passion for conservation is incredible to experience. I would highly recommend attending the convention to anyone, no matter the background a person may have.
Why is conservation so important?
Referring back to the definition of conservation, it includes the preservation, protection, and restoration of wildlife. This is one of the most important parts of conservation efforts because in the recent past wildlife populations were very low. In the early 1900’s, the whitetail deer population was as low as 500,000 and the turkey population was around 100,000. Thanks to the conservation efforts, the whitetail population has skyrocketed to a population of over 32 million and the turkey population has climbed to over 7 million. It is more than just deer and turkey that once had very low populations; waterfowl also used to have a very low population. In the early 1900’s, there were very few ducks left in the United States compared to today’s standards. Once again through conservation programs, the duck population has risen all the way to over 44 million today. Another important component is restoring habitat for these populations to continue thriving. As a whole, people need to work together for conservation.
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Conservation efforts are never complete. Goals are reached, then new ones are set. To learn more about how hunters play role in conservation, the websites of the non-profit organizations are good tools for information. To join the conservation effort, contact a local chapter of these organizations for volunteering opportunities.
My name is Wrigley Marquith and I live in Apple River, IL. I am a senior at Western Illinois University studying Agricultural Business with an emphasis in Animal Science. I am involved in multiple clubs and organizations at WIU including Alpha Gamma Sigma and the WIU Sportsman’s Club. I have a passion for the outdoors and love hunting, fishing, and camping. I have been a volunteer for the National Wild Turkey Federation for the past 3 years and plan to keep volunteering after graduation. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org