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Opinion: Anglers and hunters need to tell the public what we do for conservation

Wild ideas

Why we must educate others about our role in conservation

Why do people venture into the great outdoors? It’s a simple question, yet the answers vary immensely from person to person, and from group to group. That’s because our relationship with the outdoors is complicated. On the one hand, for example, we need the resources the natural world provides in order to keep our society humming; on the other, we get disgusted when our natural places get abused.

As anglers, hunters and trappers, we choose to experience the outdoors by contributing to conservation through the sustainable harvest of fish and game. Unfortunately, that often puts us in conflict with other outdoor enthusiasts who prefer to enjoy nature in a less direct manner. For many of them, nature has been reduced to a museum of sorts, something to be passed through and observed, but not touched or interacted with.

Still others go even further, believing we don’t belong in the natural world at all, that everything outside of the city limits is wildlife territory, and that humans are trespassers. To them, interacting with nature in a direct manner immediately devalues it.

This inevitably leads to disagreements—and sometimes conflict—with those of us who conserve our natural landscape through consumptive activities. Two years ago, for instance, protesters yelled “shame” at Six Nations hunters following a managed harvest to curb the burgeoning deer population at Ontario’s Short Hills Provincial Park. Unfortunately, there are countless more examples.

Hunters and anglers need to educate the public about our role in #conservation. Here’s why Click to Tweet

LEADING THE WAY

Across Canada, anglers, hunters and trappers contribute hundreds of millions of dollars each year to conservation projects through the sale of licences and tags, as well as through donations. Adding to that, many of us volunteer our time to help stock streams and lakes with fish, restore habitat, pick up litter and more. We also collect data from our hunts and angling efforts to help wildlife managers set fish and game policies. There is simply no other group of outdoor enthusiasts that contributes as much money or time to conservation—something that helps ensure the protection of wild animals and wild spaces for the enjoyment of everyone.

Not everyone enjoys nature in the same way

All of that isn’t enough for us to to sit back and let our money and deeds tell the story, however. We also need to speak up about the role the human species must serve in our ecosystems, of how we are meant to act as stewards of the land. It is a complex relationship that is difficult for those outside of it to understand, which is why we, as participants, are so important. And we must be vocal about it.

This isn’t about taking a stand for the outdoor activities we enjoy—it is much larger than that. It is about taking a stand for the health of our natural spaces and the important role that humans play, a connection we must foster if the conservation of wilderness areas is to succeed.

SHOWING BY EXAMPLE

As participants in the natural order of things, we have a duty to share what we know with others. Surely, few of us would deny someone new to fishing, hunting or trapping the chance to experience it firsthand. Watching the sunrise over a duck marsh, catching a fish for the first time or venturing deep into a snow-covered forest along a trapline, for example, can be life-changing experiences for many.

If you know people who do not partake in our lifestyle, I recommend you take them out on your next adventure. They don’t have to squeeze the trigger or set the hook, but just being out there is sure to help them glean an understanding of the important, deep connection we have to the outdoors.

And along with sharing the wonders of nature, we must also undertake the less awe-inspiring work. We need to actively engage in conversations regarding our activities as anglers, hunters and trappers. Our place within the natural world is complex, but we are among the few who have the ability to explain it properly. At the heart of the issue for both sides, after all, is a love of our natural spaces and the animals that inhabit them.

Only by understanding each other can we better protect what we all hold most sacred—the wilderness, and the fish and game that inhabit it.

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