By Cassie Gasaway
Imagine a world without abundant deer and other wildlife.
To prevent such possibilities, state wildlife agencies continually work with conservation organizations and individual conservationists to enhance habitats and lobby policymakers for the benefit of wildlife and hunting’s future.
Joel Webster, senior director of Western programs for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said Americans shouldn’t take healthy, abundant wild places and animals for granted. They must get involved and work hard for wildlife conservation.
“Our ability to hunt depends on robust wildlife populations and places to hunt,” Webster said. “Wildlife conservation is critical to provide opportunities. If you care about the future of hunting, you must make it a priority.”
Webster said bowhunters can get involved with conservation organizations at the local, state and national level, but those options also vary. You can make a difference through hands-on habitat work, or by voicing concerns and support for regulations and policies that affect wildlife, hunting and bowhunting. Whatever your preference, join a group and get involved.
To participate in hands-on projects, consider joining organizations on the local or state level, but don’t stop there. National organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation also have local chapters that provide nearby opportunities.
Webster said Montana residents, for example, could join the Montana Bowhunters Association or the Traditional Bowhunters of Montana to contribute locally and statewide. They could also join the Montana Wildlife Federation and Montana’s chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers to work at the state level.
Projects vary based on a group’s resources, location and mission. Some “boots on the ground” conservation projects include wetland restoration, habitat management, planting native species, or removing invasive species.
If you want to weigh in on policy decisions, join organizations that support hunting interests statewide or nationwide. This work could affect agency or legislative decisions on bag limits, season dates and equipment restrictions, as well as access to public lands and wildlife-management policies.
The TRCP, for example, works with 60 diverse partners to strengthen and represent sportsmen in Washington, D.C. It boasts 100,000 individual advocates, and regularly updates them with news and government happenings. Members can sign up for free through the TRCP website. Whether you’re affiliated with a group or not, you can donate to support conservation efforts on Capitol Hill.
“Different groups have different missions, but everyone does important work,” Webster said. “Even if there’s some overlap, it’s important that folks belong to groups at all levels to make sure they cover their bases.”
Webster recommends joining groups that match and best represent your interests. Go online to learn your options, and then join organizations you like, get on their email lists, and take action when they notify you about important issues and projects.
To find local or state conservation organizations, type your state and keywords like “hunter group,” “bowhunter group,” or “sportsmen club” into a search engine. Pair the keywords with terms like “national,” “nationwide,” or “American” to find organizations that work on national issues.
Webster calls on responsible outdoorsmen and women to ensure wildlife and wild places remain bountiful. Everyone must stay involved in conservation efforts, pick up trash, manage fires, make ethical decisions, and be good land and water stewards. We must also know, understand and abide by the rules, and mentor new hunters who will help fund wildlife conservation efforts when buying archery equipment and hunting licenses.
You can make a difference.