C onservation is a term thrown around daily in outdoor media whether it be social or traditional outlets such as this magazine.
We hear about it all the time, but what does it really mean?
The general definition of conservation is the wise use of resources. A prime example would be harvesting timber from a tract of land and then replanting that area so it remains forest that someone can harvest again years later.
Conservation in the hook and bullet circles would be taking duck stamp money and purchasing land in the prairie pothole region where most of North America’s ducks breed, so the potholes are not drained to turn the natural grassland into corn crops.
That translates to more ducks for hunters to pursue when they arrive in Texas and other states during the fall migration.
The question we should be asking is are we truly using our resources wisely?
With the hundreds of millions of dollars raised in the name of conservation an annual basis throughout the United States, what exactly are we doing to secure a bright future for wildlife and fisheries?
Conservation has always been a personal area of interest to me, and recently I came up with a few observations worth considering for hunters and fishermen.
Here we go…
• Is spending another dime on whitetail deer antler growth research “conservation”? It requires age, genetics and nutrition to produce what hunters consider trophies. We have known that for decades.
Should money from fish and game departments go elsewhere? Should money from private foundations be better used than in the pursuit of growing bigger bucks?
What we have accomplished in the last 30 years of research is the average hunter getting squeezed out of deer hunting opportunities because of insane price increases on every aspect of whitetail hunting.
Yes, there are bigger bucks, but we are also paying bigger bucks to hunt them and as far as I can tell it is at least double the rate of inflation.
• Fisheries conservation is going to have to shift heavily toward habitat. The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) has seen this and are now involved in several habitat initiatives along the coast. It is hard to get anglers into habitat conservation because we are visual people. Looking out on the bay or reservoir we see water, but it is what is under the water that counts. In my opinion we have done an incredible job with fisheries enhancement through stocking, and it remains vital, but we have probably hit the peak.
The next mountain to climb is restoring seagrass beds, monitoring for water quality and waging an even bigger war against threats such as salvinia, water hyacinth and other non-indigenous invaders.
Anglers need to get on board. A public hearing on changing trout regulations will pack every room they’re booked in along the coast. However, hold hearings on restoring seagrass, and I would be shocked if you had 1/3 the attendance.
Yes, you and me. We need to get in the habitat conservation game.
• If we are really concerned about land conservation, then we might need to drop some of the traditionally politically conservative ideas about federal land purchases.
I used to be dead set against the federal government buying more land to create national wildlife refuges because often hunters get only a fraction of the access, and I am generally for private enterprise.
However, creating wildlife refuges is far more conservation-oriented than creating strip malls. I would rather see a refuge sign go up on my favorite chunk of East Texas deer habitat than I would cement. At least it would still be used for wildlife, and if we engage our representatives, we can ensure hunting is allowed as well.
The truth is a little more public hunting land in Texas would be nice. We brag about Texas being 97 percent privately owned, and all the hunting access we have. Yet the fact is we pay more than other states and have far less overall access than a lot of states with huge tracts of national forests and other public lands. I know many hunters who use the available national forest in Texas, and they love it.
In East Texas during the next 20 years, we are either going to get refuges or reservoirs that destroy hundreds of thousands of acres of native wildlife habitat. Both would be controlled by the federal government (either U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife or in case of reservoirs U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) so why not keep things natural and leave the bottomlands alone?
I better quit on that one. That’s worth an entire column or two.
With a growing population in Texas who have no clue about hunting, fishing and wildlife, we need to start thinking more seriously about conservation. It’s more than a slogan. It’s a principle that allows us to continue enjoying wildlife and fisheries at a greater level than any other nation.
We need to make sure we are doing it as wisely as possible.
Email Chester Moore at [email protected]