TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY THREE years ago this month, a diverse but unified band of rowdy individuals issued a brash declaration. That Declaration of Independence ultimately produced a continent-spanning nation that became the greatest beacon of liberty and freedom the world had ever seen.
As any C+ or better middle school student knows, the birth of this nation we celebrate every July was not an easy labor. July 4, 1776 was just the jumping off point of a long-gestating struggle and the formal start of a seven-year global war against the greatest military force on Earth. The American Patriots not only had to battle a far superior British enemy, but also faced political resistance from Loyalist Torries in their own towns and neighborhoods. It was by no means a universally popular war.
And yet, the Americans prevailed. But their stunning upset victory paled in comparison with what the leaders of the rebellion accomplished after winning their freedom. The foundation they laid in the form of the United States Constitution has proven to be so solid that the nation was able to expand across an entire continent within just a few short decades of its founding, survive a horrific civil war, face its own injustices and find ways to remedy them, and grow to become the most prosperous, most powerful nation in history.
While there may have been examples throughout our nation’s history where its founding principles have been contradicted—Slavery, the treatment of Indians, the hundred-year civil rights struggle—it is still the best example mankind has ever had of the championship of individual freedom and liberty. The U.S.A. is far from perfect, but that is part of its nature: freedom, by definition, can get messy. Thankfully, our founders realized that and drew us a road map that, remarkably, is still quite accurate and reliable.
As long as Freedom remains the guiding force, this nation will find its way ahead.
But, let us not forget…
The spirit of independence that fired our Revolution had a lot to do with the vast, natural wonder of the wild North American Continent. Breathtaking mountain vistas. Endless miles of forest, teaming with game. Rivers, lakes, bays and sea shores, swimming with fish. Freedom just freaking beckoned.
That spirit remains, almost two and a half centuries later, but if it is going to survive in generations to come, the fire behind it must be carried forward by those of us committed to the outdoors.
America has long been defined by open spaces, abundant wildlife, clean air and sparkling water. But, as real world hunters and anglers, we know that this is an idealized vision.
Those open spaces are under constant attack by encroaching development. Here in Texas, especially, where more than 90 percent of the land is under private control, maintaining enough habitat and natural resource will be a never ending challenge as the state’s population explosion continues.
Meanwhile, the abundance of wildlife requires perpetual effort by conservation groups and national and state wildlife agencies such as our own Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. These efforts have proven they can be effective: There are more whitetail deer in the U.S. now than there were in 1900. But all wildlife and their habitats are continually threatened by ever-advancing civilization. Fortunately, with organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others, game and other species have a fighting chance.
And clean air and sparkling water can never be taken for granted, as the progress of technology marches relentlessly forward. If not for avid fishermen and their supporting organizations such as our own Texas-based Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), the water we fish, swim in, and drink would probably be a lot dirtier—and deadlier. Recent fish consumption advisories in Galveston Bay underscore the need for an aggressive conservation watch on all fronts, especially close to home.
For America to hold onto its unique spirit of liberty, it needs to cherish its outdoor heritage. It must nurture its wildlife and resources, and it must cultivate future generations of hunters and anglers that will use and protect their heritage.
You want to Keep America Great? Save the Great American Outdoors.