It is a weird time isn’t it? Last night the government shut down again. A dude who didnt pay his fees and was acquitted of charges is being paraded as a hero of civil liberties and private property rights. But there are some constants that we should all know by now; folks in office are still pointing fingers every which way but at themselves, and people still turn into keyboard warriors over fixed blade versus mechanical. What a time to be alive.
With all this going on, its easy for us to slip into the mud slinging and flag waving in the “us vs them” scenario that is found in almost every single issue. For example, Cliven Bundy is on tour across the country starting in Montana today. As well all know Mr. Bundy and others held up at a Wildlife Refuge (that is yours) in protest of “Federal seizure of land” and other atrocities he claims have happened due to federal oversight. He ran the flag up of “us vs them” facing off with the federal land managers. Which is his right (to protest, not take over our land), and the rights of those who joined him. However, he did so with half truths and flat out lies. If you have not heard the facts about public land ownership, particularly in the federal realm, there is loads of information out there. Factually accurate sources like Randy Newbergs Hunt Talk Radio where he covers the laws and history of the lands and statehood of Western states. Randy is a model for how we as conservationist should act. He recognizes that in order to honor our heritage of being the most devout conservationist on this Earth, we are called to be efficient and honest.
How do you and I do this?
1.) Be knowledgeable – In today’s age of technology there is so much information at our fingertips. Google is an excellent tool. Online forums are also excellent ways to gain knowledge. But, they also have one major flaw; a lot of the information is derived from emotion and opinions. There are keyboard warriors all over and armchair biologist just waiting to rage out on the keys. I myself, am guilty of this. Probably still am.* But, if the issue is based on a practice or requirements of a species or anything along those lines, I put a “scholar.” in front of Google. This resource sends you to a plethora of peer-reviewed articles based on scientific research. Now, some require a subscription and what not, but abstracts can hit a lot of the study. Also, if it was performed at certain USDA Research Stations, the article in its entirety is available. Language can be somewhat complex, but I hope emojis and the acronyming of everything has not won out yet. Also, if it is a bill, there is generally a way to find it written out. This is a spot where folks lose their minds. This is a place for speculation and emotion and crazy assumptions. Some may be well founded. Some, not so much. Read, discuss, research, discuss some more.
2.) Let emotion fuel the desire to find the facts- One of the coolest things about those of us who participate on the landscape is that we are so emotionally charged and invested into the resources. From clean air and clean water and protecting soil to providing wildlife habitat, we are at the fore front. And it is something that swells me up with pride watching folks come together to do our part for that which we love. But dont let that emotion get out of control. Use it to grasp a better understanding of an issue, but above all, to find the facts. In my career and my personal volunteering on conservation measures I have seen folks come from a place of emotion and speculation. Their heart was in the right place, but they did not come from a place of facts. Their credibility has eroded. They created divisions that are still not mended and have slowed down progress on many fronts. We owe it to our predecessors and those who come behind us to come from a place of facts. Facts matter.
3.) Be respectful- Dont be that guy/gal. When I say that I am referring the guy/gal who starts the personal attacks in person or on the keyboard (a lot of that lately) and completely regresses to some schoolyard punk. You can have a civil discussion with folks. If they change their tone and raise their voice or they begin the personal attacks, its best to just acknowledge the point you are making and take the high road. Even if they deserve a good cussing or beating.
4.) Leave the party line out of it- This times a million. If you still think that either party cares about you as a hunter, as a conservationist, as an individual; I would argue you have had blinders on your whole life. The left primarily hates the 2nd amendment and is not as friendly to hunters as one would think. The right wants to transfer your land and limits conservation work and agencies abilities to function. They do not care about you. I am sorry if this hurts. But it is true. Recently, I was having a beer with some folks and one of the gentlemen made the statement “Hunters dont vote for folks who value public lands”. Instead of responding with a quirk about the 2nd amendment or constitutional amendments to protect hunting and fishing, I pondered on it for a while. Here is the truth of the matter; we need public lands to hunt and we need someone to protect our ability to do so (in every way). A candidate who does that may exist, but some folks also claim they have seen Bigfoot. Or we could just get Mr. Rinella to start a new version of the Bull Moose party….
5.) GET IN THE ARENA!!!!- (this times a trillion)I am often fascinated by the comments I see in forums and groups on post about broadheads, which truck, measure my buck, QDM vs. TDM vs. Traditional. They hit the thousands in some venues. In those same groups though, I have seen (and made) post that are more about issues in the conservation and policy realm. Issues that directly impact your ability to pursue game. Public meetings, calls to actions and so on. It may hit 50 comments, very, very rarely have I seen any with 100 or more comments. Now, there are forums that are created just for these discussions, and they are great resources. However, not too many folks participate or are a part of these forums or groups. It hurts us all to not be involved, to not be engaged, to not USE YOUR VOICE! I hate going to meetings. I love being at home with my family. But, because of them I go to the meeting. Not saying I do not enjoy meeting and talking with fellow conservationist, I do, but I want to be home or in the woods. They may be an inconvenience, but it is a privilege to participate. If I do not go and speak on behalf of my sons, who will? If we look at what our predecessors endured, it is our DUTY.
With all of these points, try and think about what message it does for hunting and fishing. There are less and less of us. We need to recruit and retain. How are we going to add to our numbers and appeal to those who do not hunt if we engage in the same style of rhetoric as those we oppose?
Join a NGO like the RMEF, BHA, QDMA, NWTF or so on. Go to a meeting. Ask a question. Reach out to folks you see who are getting out there. If we do not do this, our future is looking pretty bleak and dismal.
Get in the Arena.
*I recently did this in a discussion (this morning) on the TRCP Facebook page. Had to go make a note in an edit. I made an assumption. But, I corrected it after learning I was wrong. Part of it