Hunters, Anglers and Climate Change

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Published on July 14th, 2009  |  Discuss This Article  


Can hunters and anglers make a difference for climate change?

After all, sportsmen and sportswomen have a long history of solving conservation challenges.

Hunters — and I am one — take justifiable pride in their role in purchasing national wildlife refuges, restoring wildlife populations and conserving wetlands and other habitat.

And they have a history of getting things done.

For instance, when the nationwide wild turkey population dropped to 30,000, hunters got involved and reintroduced them across their historic range. Today, some 7 million wild turkeys roam the continent.

How many species conservation efforts are so successful?

But lately, the greater conservation community notes that hunters and anglers aren’t doing much for the most pressing environmental issues of the day, like climate change.

It’s just another chapter in the long history of sportsmen and conservationists not seeing eye-to-eye.

On the one hand, too many environmentalists will work with hunters when it’s convenient, but otherwise look upon those same “allies” with disdain or even contempt. At times, some organizations say they support hunting, but then seem eager to back anti-hunting legislation.

But it’s also true that a certain segment of sportsmen too frequently lump environmentalists in with animal rightists, and see any “green” legislation as a threat to hunting and fishing traditions.

That’s why it’s heartening to see the Seasons’ End campaign, an effort by hunting and fishing organizations to find solutions to the climate change issue.

Supported by such respected sportsman-led conservation groups as Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and others, the coalition offers substantial information on how climate change will affect game and fish species, and by extension hunting and fishing opportunities.

In the Great Lakes, strong evidence already exists that warmwater species like bass and crappies are dramatically increasing while coldwater species decrease.

Big game animals like moose could find themselves increasingly infected with parasites. Expensive salmon conservation projects could be for naught if rivers warm considerably.

Fisheries biologist and avid sportsman Jim Martin, the new chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, says:

“In my forty-year career as a biologist, I’ve seen the attitude toward climate change go from denial to depression. But depression is a paralyzing condition. We need to move forward with energy and excitement and hope. This is the best time in history to be a conservationist.”

American hunters and anglers still have a role to play in shaping conservation policy, and can still get things done.

The Seasons’ End campaign has the potential to bring the long tradition of the hunter-conservationist to today’s most pressing environmental issue.

(Photo: The author hunting in Idaho’s Owyhee Canyonlands. Credit: Jennifer Miller.)

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12 Responses to “Hunters, Anglers and Climate Change”

  1. HCR says:

    Thanks for reminding me why I don’t support the “Nature Conservancy”. I’d rather support organizations that preserve nature for nature’s sake rather than those that preserve it so that they can enjoy annihilating nature’s inhabitants. If you have to kill animals for fun, you need a new hobby.

  2. Thanks for the great blog and spreading the conservation message. As hunters & anglers, we are absolutely passionate about being engaged in these issues.

  3. Joseph Barney says:

    Even though hunting is not my thing, I don’t see hunters as merely “destroyers of nature.” Poachers, yes, and even some trophy hunters (mainly those that do it illegally), but you know…Native Americans hunted. Many hunters today eat the game they kill and animals, even your housecat is a hunter.

    I also don’t agree with things like Animal Liberation Front, PETA, Greenpeace but love animals…am against animal cruelity. I know we have to eat meat…it’s biological. Vegans are doing their bodies some harm, at least in the brain area. No joke intended. Your brain will shrink without eating meat, at least fish or poultry. Not super shrinking and everyone would be affected differently but your brain does regulate more than thinking…i.e. breathing, hormone levels etc. Although, lots of red meat and egg yolks can be bad. However, eating vegetables also with meat and whatnot, is definitely good.

    Even though it was partially hunters in the past that caused some wildlife population problems, you can even more blame settlers, logging, making big cities, pollution like pesticides. You know, people in general including those that are into animal rights. About the only people that didn’t decimate the land were the Native Americans who were orginally here, and maybe a few hippies. :P Not to say every Native American is always good. They fought amongst each other a lot too, you get the picture. People have to eat and if you wanna nitpick, we do share DNA with plants too…so you vegans are somewhat of cannibals. ;)

  4. Joe says:

    Global warming is bunk. This is one of the coldest Julys on record. Where is Al Gore? Polishing his “piece” award?

  5. Joe says:

    Just think how much cooler the earth would be without the windbags in DC and the internet!

  6. Logan says:

    @ Joseph Barney:

    When you say that veganism shrinks your brain, I presume you refer to Vitamin B-12, which is essential for a healthy nervous system and is not naturally found in plants.

    B-12 does not originate in animals, it comes from bacteria which line the stomachs of animals. Similarly, if you took vegetables out of the ground and ate them without washing them you could get B-12 from the soil residue, though that would be unhealthy.

    Vegans are not intrinsically B-12 deficient, as you suggest. They can get their B-12 through either vitamins or fortified foods. The B-12 is synthesized from bacteria cultures.

    Two other points:

    Indigenous people can cause environmental destruction, too. The first human settlers of Madagascar, New Zealand, and Easter Island were not Europeans or imperialists, but they wiped out species and caused environmental havoc just the same. Also, there is suggestive evidence that the first people to migrate to the Americas more than ten thousand years ago were responsible for megafauna extinctions. You can read about it in Jared Diamond’s “The Third Chimpanzee”.

    The suggestion that vegans “are somewhat of cannibals” for eating anything at all necessitates an eye-rolling. Vegans are under no illusion that “kingdomism” is on any firmer ground than “speciesism”. Vegans do not think killing animals is wrong merely because they are animals, but because many animals (although not all) have the capacity to feel pain and suffering. At a minimum this would include vertebrates and cephalopods as groups of animals possessing “inalienable rights”. Other animal phyla do not possess a capacity for suffering. Sponges and corals are animals but are not seen by vegans as intrinsically morally valuable, so if they object to the death of a sponge or coral it would be for environmental reasons, not because of animal rights.

  7. Paul says:

    Re HCR’s comment, I don’t think our friend, Matt, need apologize for hunting.
    Hunting may be fun, I’ll grant you that, but like Matt, I hunt for food–and I don’t hunt what I don’t choose to eat. In most areas of the U.S. there is an abundance of game, and the reality is that they need to be hunted to manage populations. I also subsribe to the ‘localvore’ concept, and wild game is free-range, locally gown, humanely slaughtered natural food.

  8. lcstech says:

    To HCR, you need to educate your self why hunters hunt and why it fits hand in hand with the topic of conservation. It is fun, like camping is fun, but to true hunters the fun is not about the kill, or a trophy. It is a much, much deeper experience, nearly spiritual for some. I have just as much fun when I don’t see what I’m looking for. The connection hunters have with nature is primal, just as the connection all humans have with nature is. Hunters are in fact the original conservationists, and it goes way back in time, beyond our modern society, which has nearly unplugged from nature. Those who bash hunting as HCR did, do not understand what it is, or why people do it. Try reading “The Sacred Art of Hunting” by James Swan (a non-hunter), it will give you a better perspective on the fact the hunting is not about annihilation of all the animals on the planet, it has a much deeper meaning to all societies on the planet, and their ancestors. Anyone who eats meat would be better off knowing what it takes to hunt, kill, and prepare their own meat, just once. There is an element of honor in doing your own dirty work, and to ensure nothing goes to waste as you stand before your god knowing you’ve taken a life for food. It’s humbling and meaningful to know you’re responsible for the meal on your plate from the hunters eyes. Many who only go to the butcher shop in their local store for packaged meat, really do not comprehend the fact that someone is doing the killing on their behalf. Even if they admit they know that is the case, they do not really appreciate it at the level of the hunter.
    I do understand that there are bad apples in the hunting group, just as there are in any other group. But just as you would not judge others by the acts of a few, perhaps you should instead judge hunters by their acts of conservation. Only hunting what they’ll eat, assisting in conservation via every purchase they make for gear and licensing through fees and taxes. Supporting of groups such as this one and others. Take Ducks Unlimited as an example, the DU group alone is more responsible for conserving the remaining habitat for ducks and wetland birds than any other group, globally. 80+ % of the group is hunters or former hunters.

  9. Art says:

    we all need to flock together on the issue of reducing carbon in the air.

  10. Jeff Zlonis says:

    Thanks for making me aware of Seasons End campaign – I was about to sink into the depression state about climate change.
    I’m glad that the Conservancy allows and even encourages hunting on some of its land. As a member of Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever as well as the Conservancy, I see great congruence in their missions. Working together on climate change awareness and actions will be positive.

  11. Mike Noel says:

    I am sure the author is a good-hearted, rule-following person. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of “hunters” are ignorant slobs who simply want to kill animals far more beautiful and intelligent than they are. I had the misfortune to live many years in Texas and occasionally wandered onto a “hunting preserve” next to the property where we camped. The first time I did so, I stopped, after noting the trees cut off by bullets and the dead armadillos with shotgun holes in their bodies, and realized that if I worked at it I could pretty much walk the entire area by jumping-or stepping-from alcohol container to alcohol container. The local paper published an article about a sting carried out by wildlife control officers, They went to 24 waterfowl hunting sites on the Texas coast and asked about daily hunting limits. 23 of the managers just laughed and said “Don’t worry about it. You can shoot all you want.”When I lived in Michigan, I read a newspaper article on the fact that the liquor stores in the northern “hunting”area of the state did more business the opening week of deer-hunting season than most of the rest of the year combined. We live at present on a 24 mile long lake and, during and after hunting season, dozens of expended shotgun shells wash into out boat ramp. The rest of the year it is discarded fishing gear packages and alcohol containers. Yes, there are many true hunters out there, but far too many of them are just shooters. We found a dead bald eagle in our boat ramp and the federal agent who came to check it out said 60 % of the dead eagles he examines are shot.

  12. […] Additional resources: Christina Larson “The Emerging Environmental Majority”, Washington Monthly, May, 2006 Matt Miller “Hunters, Anglers and Climate Change” from […]

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