Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shooting Out the Land

Ranger McEntire of the Malheur National Forest (Eastern Oregon), Winter 1912 - 1913
A repost from this blog circa 2005

In 1887, 14 years before he became President, Theodore Roosevelt joined with a distinguished group of sporting Americans -- including George Bird Grinnell, William Tecumseh Sherman, John Lacey, and Gifford Pinchot -- to form the Boone and Crockett Club. The men who created the Boone and Crockett Club were all dedicated hunters. Grinnell was editor of Field and Stream magazine, a hunting and fishing journal, and as editor, he was shocked at the rapid depletion of America’s wildlife due to unregulated market hunting

Though by charter the Boone and Crockett Club numbered only 100 people, it was a very influential group. John Lacey eventually became a Member of Congress from Iowa and, in 1900, just before Roosevelt became President, he managed to get Congress to pass the Lacey Act which made it a federal crime to transport wild game across state lines if had been killed in violation of state laws — the first federal restriction on commercial market hunting in the United States.

Roosevelt, of course, became Vice President and then President upon the assassination of William McKinley. An avid sport hunter, Roosevelt was also an accomplish naturalist, and counted among his friends John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, and best-selling wildlife author John Burroughs.

It is hard to overstate the importance of hunting in Roosevelt’s life. Suffice it to say that he chose not to run for President after his second term so that he could go to Africa on a year-long safari, hunting big game and collecting specimens for the Smithsonian Institution.

During his presidency (1901 to 1911), Roosevelt more than tripled the National Forest system to 148 million acres (and made Gifford Pinchot the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service), oversaw the creation of 150 new national forest areas in 21 states, created four national game preserves, 51 federal bird sanctuaries, and established 18 national monuments. No president, before or since, has created such a sweeping public lands legacy.

In 1911, shortly after Roosevelt left office, Congress passed the Weeks Act to authorize the purchase of forest lands in the east. Much of this land later became part of the National Forest system in the eastern United States.

That same year the American Game Protective Association (AGPA) was founded and funded by gun and ammunition companies such as Winchester. This was the first sportsman-supported organization in the U.S. with a full-time professional staff, and it was later renamed the Wildlife Management Institute. In 1913, the shooting of migratory birds was regulated — the first step toward building back game bird populations deeply impacted by over-hunting.

America’s hunters lead the charge for wildlife habitat protection and the regulation of hunting seasons, providing an intellectual and moral framework now known as “hook and bullet conservation”.

Hook and bullet conservation has produced truly astounding results in the U.S. over the course of the last 100 years. Despite a three-fold increase in the U.S. population since 1900, we now have more bear, cougar, buffalo, turkey, elk, geese, duck, fox, raccoon, possum, alligator, groundhog, bald eagle, pronghorn, wolf, coyote, bobcat, and deer than at any time in the last 100 years. Beaver, turkey and river otter have been reintroduced into areas where they were wiped out, and wolf, elk and cougar are beginning to return to the east.

All of this has been made possible because the land and the forest -- otherwise voiceless -- has a voting constituency among American hunters and anglers. Not all hunters and anglers are good sportsmen who understand the need for conservation, but all good sportsmen are conservationists who understand the value of habitat and self-restraint.


sfox said...

Self-restraint- not one of the more common American values, more's the pity.

Gina said...

I listened to an interesting lecture a couple years ago at a veterinary conference, linking the massive increase in tick populations to the Lacey Act. It's in the second half of this blog post: