Want To Find Common Ground Between Gun Owners And Non-Gun Owners? Think Conservation.

 An interesting article appeared today on a website which caters primarily to residents of Ohio who earn their livings by owning or working on farms. There are still 75,000 farms in the Buckeye State, which means that the farmers and their families account for less than 3% of the population, but together agriculture contributes more than $100 billion to the state’s economy, which isn’t bad considering that taken together, farmland accounts for about half of all the state’s physical size.

The article, written by the Director of Agricultural Law at Ohio State, summarizes what landowners need to know when they allow hunters to go trekking across their land. Ohio has passed any number of statutes covering who can hunt on  someone else’s land, what kind of permission is required, how many hunters can be on a specific piece of land at the same time, who needs to be notified about trespassers, and so on. As the author of the article states, “hunting raises many questions and concerns for agricultural landowners. Ohio law offers rules and remedies that can ease those concerns.”

What I find interesting is the degree to which hunting and farming both help to sustain the natural balance  that allows all living species (including humans) to survive. The farmer plants a crop which both draws and restores natural ingredients to the land. After the harvest (which produces sustenance for animals and man) the stubble and vines provide nourishment for all kinds of living things. Then the hunters come and trim the flocks  and herds attracted to the open, farmed space and the whole cycle repeats itself again.

The importance of this process and the role played by hunting in maintaining the natural balance of this cycle was recognized by Theodore Roosevelt and George Grinnell when they founded the Boone & Crockett Club in 1887.  This followed from Roosevelt’s first hunting expedition in 1883 when he went out West to bag a trophy-sized bison. What he thought would be an easy hunting trip into the Dakota Territory, turned into an arduous trek into Montana because the American bison, once native to the entire continent, had become almost extinct in the continental United States. The founding of Boone & Crockett was the first of many steps taken by Roosevelt and other hunter-conservationists to regulate the taking of game so that herds and flocks would continue to flourish and grow.

I did my first serious hunting in South Carolina in the mid-1970’s, going after white tails both in highland and lowland sites. When I moved to Massachusetts in 1993 I froze my rear end several times hunting high-flyers from duck blinds on the Atlantic coast. I also briefly hunted elk in Wyoming and antelope in West Texas; in neither place did I even get off one shot.

What impresses me about this country is that we have almost an endless supply of open space, most of which represents farms that are no longer in production but offer all kinds of landscapes where hunters can go and engage in what Boone & Crockett calls a ‘fair chase.’ This means that at all times the hunter is aware of his responsibility to “conserve wildlife natural resources, especially game species.”

It just so happens that an organization, Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2) has been working on ways to maintain and augment the natural balance so that wild species can survive in what is increasingly less amounts of natural space. The group is an offshoot of the Smithsonian, and the CEO, Katy Palfrey, just happens to be the great-great granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt, I kid you not.

You can see what they are doing on their website, but I’ll just summarize it quickly and tell you this. They work with ranchers and farmers who have open land that can be used to study the most effective ways to protect and grow natural species, and some of their spaces are shared with hunters as well.

Want to find common ground between gun owners and non-gun owners?  Here it is.

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1 thought on “Want To Find Common Ground Between Gun Owners And Non-Gun Owners? Think Conservation.

  1. As a member of the Izaak Walton League I’ve seen the constructive interaction between hunters and non-hunting conservation types very often. Hopefully this will become more common over time.
    My main concern is whether enough younger people become interested in conservation for it’s own sake. It’s easy to get them fired up abut Bears Ears or Bristol Bay, XL Pipeline, etc. But what about all the nondescript undeveloped parcels across the nation that are fantastic plant & animal habitat but are also visually bland? That’s the land we need to save but only hunters & bird watchers truly care about it.

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