While we can make many decisions about land, there is one thing we simply cannot do. We cannot make any more of it. What we have, we have — and wildlife’s future depends very much on how we use the lands, both public and private, now resting within the powers and authority of private citizens and governments. The land debates, including the private property issues of ownership and management of residing wildlife, cannot realistically be divided into separate public and private sector discussions. All land is intertwined economically and ecologically.
Early conservation pioneers succeeded because they understood how to convey the importance of their ideals to the public. However the conservation movement has to a large extent moved away from an agenda of trying to convince society of its social, cultural, and economic value. We no longer strive for the hearts of our nations’ publics. The conservation community has replaced this with an emphasis on membership rosters and obtaining political influence, both often emphasizing specific issues that can hardly be viewed as being of the greatest public value or concern.
The most recent surveys of public attitudes toward regulated hunting in the United States indicate that more than 75 percent of those responding support this activity. Hunters seem to just accept this new information as one more inevitable and self-evident truth. It is this kind of reaction, however, that helps engender the great malaise in the hunting world: the belief that we have no need to reach out to the broad public, can keep representing ourselves to ourselves, and thus be continuously reinforced in the notion that all is well. Yet we know very well that not all is well.
There's an important question every hunter must answer: Are you really a conservationist?
Shane P. Mahoney
The hunting community often focuses upon its financial contributions towards conservation. However, in the author's view paying a tax established in 1937 on a rifle or ammunition today does not make anyone a conservationist, regardless of whether they hunt or not. So what does make someone a conservationist and how would you know if you met one? If hunters want to be known as conservationists, shouldn't the community be able to articulate what it means by the term?