Hunting and conservationism seem to be polar opposites of each other, and without further examination, it would be easy to think that. After all, why would someone who kills animals be concerned with their well being? Part of being a hunter is appreciating the outdoors and the species living within them. Both historically and in the present-day, hunters have worked the hardest to preserve the species they love.
In many ways, the importance of conservation in America began because a hunter took action. In the late 1800s, former President Theodore Roosevelt, lifelong hunter and naturalist, visited much of the American countryside on hunting trips and wrote about his findings. Many of the natural landscapes and wild species had dwindled due to the intense industrialization of the time. The National Park Service recounts, as a hunter, Roosevelt was dismayed.
When Roosevelt took over as the 26th President of the United States, he set in motion many different plans that essentially formed the foundation of the conservation movement. For example, he established the National Forest Service and set aside land for the formation of multiple National Parks and Monuments and the first Bird Reserves and National Forests, according to the University of Virginia's Miller Center.
Roosevelt made conservation a priority in America's agenda, and his sentiments were shared throughout the country. The new movement inspired many hunters to follow in his footsteps and take action. Many iconic American species now serve as monuments to this dedication, such as the gray wolf, bald eagle and the American alligator.
For instance, the wild turkeys of America were driven to near extinction during America's development due to heavy logging and farming. When the National Forest Service was formed, hunters began assisting with game laws, reintroduction projects and habitat protection. This civilian effort led to the eventual formation of organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, an organization of hunters working directly with the government to protect wild turkeys, as reported by Eric Holst of the Environmental Defense Fund. Because of this collaborative effort, there are now over 7 million turkeys in the United States.
Many other hunting based conservation organizations have since been chartered with different focuses, such as the Delta Waterfowl Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, to name a few. These organizations work alongside the state and federal government in an effort to preserve the natural populations of game animals both for hunting and for their own survival.
Looking further, hunters have had a lasting effect on international species as well. Many iconic species like lions, rhinos and elephants are critically endangered, as poachers target these animals and illegally sell their hides and ivory. It would seem like legally allowing hunters to harvest these animals would be counterintuitive to saving their populations.
Many African countries have set out to regulate and protect these species both for their survival and to enable legal hunting. The legal hunting of these animals brings in large amounts of revenue both on a local and national scale, so many African countries have moved to set aside large portions to protect species from poaching and provide a safe area for the species to thrive, according to Amy Dickman of CNN.
Both historical and current movements prove the relationship and interdependence of conservation and hunting. Looking on a smaller scale, the relationship between the two is something I can personally attest to.
As someone who grew up a hunter, fisherman and general lover of the outdoors, I want nothing more than to protect the land we live on and its natural inhabitants. I grew up with my father and grandfather teaching me how to appreciate and understand the world we live in and the other living animals we share it with.
Hunting is not all take and no give. To me, the best part about hunting is giving back, whether that be in the form of an organization or more directly by maintaining habitats to sustain populations of animals. This attitude is the same one that drove conservationism into the heart of American values.