conservation policy, Conserving Wildlife

long ago conservationists forcefully protected wildlife


There was another time when greedy people overexploited the country’s wild lands destroying wildlife wholesale. Early in the century the killing of wildlife for meat, fur, feather and entertainment created income for many and without regulation ended in ecological collapse.

A Ding Darling Cartoon from the 1930's

A Ding Darling Cartoon from the 1930’s

Things got better after passage of national laws that stopped market hunting of wildlife but lawlessness and habitat destruction went on until populations of highly productive species were being lost. The collapse of huntable populations of game animals, deer, turkey and especially waterfowl, slowly fueled public outrage. The nation was hobbled by the Great Depression and yet activists like Ding Darling, a popular political cartoonist and confidant of President Roosevelt, rallied  the public and  Congress to pass the most important wildlife conservation laws in American history.

Within five years the coalition of conservationists had successfully created the political power to passed sweeping laws.  They created the first Duck Stamp, a tax on guns and ammunition, and a new system of regulating hunting and fishing, all still functioning to this day. Hundreds of millions of dollars flooded conservation initiatives.  At the same time hundreds of thousands of hunters and fishermen banded together to create a political force that forced conservation into the main stream.

That coalition of conservationists has eroded in recent years. Anti hunting furor, feral cat protection, anti trapping and other typically liberal causes have introduced an irreconcilable partisan divide.  It has, among other things, weakened the cause of conservation by forcing hunters and fishermen into the arms of groups like the NRA, who sanctimoniously and in collusion with the gun industry,  defend the right to hunt. This right wing orientation of hunters and fishermen essentially cancels the left wing orientation of most conservation groups. The result neutralizes the political force of conservation.

But can we reconstruct this coalition of people who enjoy wildlife?