A short while ago I received a phone call from someone
claiming to represent a group of conservation and
environmental organizations. When I asked the caller
which environmental groups she was talking about, there
was a pause then she replied it was just a bunch of groups
concerned about the environment. When I pressed the issue,
requesting to know the names of the groups, and if those
groups supported sound wildlife management, there was a
longer pause, then I was put on hold.
When the caller returned, she read a list of anti-hunting
organizations claiming to be environmental groups. Maybe
you've heard of them? Friends of the Animals, Fund for
Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
and the National Humane Society are a few of the names I
remember. The caller insisted that these groups were advocates
for the environment. When I asked her if the groups were
concerned about sportsman rights, she said they were strong
advocates for sportsman rights. She lied, but that's what
I've come to expect from these organizations. There's a
credibility gap in the focus of these organizations that
should be examined.
The day after the phone call, PETA held a public demonstration
in Rapid City. Their focus was to oppose sport fishing as cruel,
inhumane and damaging to fish and the environment. But, do they
really work to improve conditions for fish and wildlife? I think
not. Let's look at who really has helped protect fish and wildlife
in the last century.
The first PETA poster child is the American Bison. After a
government campaign to remove the food animal of Native Americans
in the 1800s, the bison was near extinction. These anti-hunting
groups like to point to the "buffalo hunters" eradication of the
bison as typical hunters doing their thing. I'll buy that if
you'll buy the thought that modern businessmen and slave traders
are the same thing. Hunting and the deliberate, government supported
elimination of a cultural icon and the mainstay of a race of people
have little in common.
Actually, it was modern sport hunters who fought to restore the
bison to much of its natural range. It was hunters who fought
to protect the bison from further exploitation and end the
slaughter of the 18th century. Hunters worked to create preserves
to host the bison and restore their ranks to survivable numbers.
At the turn of the century, the pronghorn was also near extinction.
Again, hunters came to the pronghorn's rescue. "Market hunters"
had nearly deleted the pronghorn from the continent, but market
hunters were far different from modern sport hunters. Market
hunters killed animals to sell in the markets, while modern
sportsmen hunt for the private use of their families.
Actually, it was sportsmen, yes hunters, who put an end to market
hunting. Hunters worked to restore the pronghorn to its habitat.
Hunter's dollars paid for the transplantation of pronghorn to its
original range. Hunters dollars paid for breeding programs,
biological studies and other programs directly responsible for
the return of the pronghorn. Hunting programs continue to keep
the pronghorn in balance with its range, preventing dramatic
surges and dips that come with over-population and starvation.
Fishermen are the folks who have been working to overcome the
habitat devastation that has destroyed the breeding numbers of
many native fish species, including the salmon. Fishermen
dollars paid for hatcheries, salmon ladders, native trout
protection and re-introduction, and other programs designed
to protect and restore native fish species around the country.
The list of other animals who have rebounded in numbers as the
result of modern sportsmen's programs and hunter's dollars is
substantial. Elk, wild turkeys, deer, waterfowl, bighorns,
mountain goats, moose, caribou, upland birds and a variety of
non-game fish, wildlife and bird species have rebounded as the
result of hunters and the programs they started.
Groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited,
National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Unlimited and a host of
other hunter groups have done their part. They spent untold
dollars to restore habitat, purchase wintering range, re-establish
and restore native species to their historic range and protect
wildlife from the constant encroachment of civilization. They
are the ones who are really working to protect the wildlife from
cruel and inhumane conditions.
Nature is decidedly inhumane in the way it balances wildlife
with the capacity of the land. Animal predators are very cruel
in the way kill, often beginning to eat their prey before it is
dead. Starvation lingers for weeks before it exacts its toll.
In comparison, a hunter's bullet or fisherman's creel is swift
If we compare the efforts and gains of the two sides, wildlife
has benefited far more from hunter's programs than it has from
anti-hunter programs. Think not? If so, answer these questions.
Which species of bird or animal did an anti-hunting group
retrieve from the brink of extinction? I can name more than
a dozen who were rescued by hunters.
Which anti-hunting group has purchased hundreds of thousands of
acres of habitat to benefit all kinds of wildlife, including
non-game species? I can name several hunter's programs and
groups that have.
Which species of native fish did anti-fishermen rescue from the
brink of extinction? I can name quite a few species that were
rescued by fishermen.
So, who are the real friends of wildlife?
~ Al Campbell