November 29th, 1999

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories. . .

A Credibility Gap Of Motives

By Al Campbell, Rapid City,SD, USA
Previously printed in the Rapid City Journal

A short while ago I received a phone call from someone claiming to represent a group of conservation and environmental organizations. When I asked the caller which environmental groups she was talking about, there was a pause then she replied it was just a bunch of groups concerned about the environment. When I pressed the issue, requesting to know the names of the groups, and if those groups supported sound wildlife management, there was a longer pause, then I was put on hold.

When the caller returned, she read a list of anti-hunting organizations claiming to be environmental groups. Maybe you've heard of them? Friends of the Animals, Fund for Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the National Humane Society are a few of the names I remember. The caller insisted that these groups were advocates for the environment. When I asked her if the groups were concerned about sportsman rights, she said they were strong advocates for sportsman rights. She lied, but that's what I've come to expect from these organizations. There's a credibility gap in the focus of these organizations that should be examined.

The day after the phone call, PETA held a public demonstration in Rapid City. Their focus was to oppose sport fishing as cruel, inhumane and damaging to fish and the environment. But, do they really work to improve conditions for fish and wildlife? I think not. Let's look at who really has helped protect fish and wildlife in the last century.

The first PETA poster child is the American Bison. After a government campaign to remove the food animal of Native Americans in the 1800s, the bison was near extinction. These anti-hunting groups like to point to the "buffalo hunters" eradication of the bison as typical hunters doing their thing. I'll buy that if you'll buy the thought that modern businessmen and slave traders are the same thing. Hunting and the deliberate, government supported elimination of a cultural icon and the mainstay of a race of people have little in common.

Actually, it was modern sport hunters who fought to restore the bison to much of its natural range. It was hunters who fought to protect the bison from further exploitation and end the slaughter of the 18th century. Hunters worked to create preserves to host the bison and restore their ranks to survivable numbers.

At the turn of the century, the pronghorn was also near extinction. Again, hunters came to the pronghorn's rescue. "Market hunters" had nearly deleted the pronghorn from the continent, but market hunters were far different from modern sport hunters. Market hunters killed animals to sell in the markets, while modern sportsmen hunt for the private use of their families.

Actually, it was sportsmen, yes hunters, who put an end to market hunting. Hunters worked to restore the pronghorn to its habitat. Hunter's dollars paid for the transplantation of pronghorn to its original range. Hunters dollars paid for breeding programs, biological studies and other programs directly responsible for the return of the pronghorn. Hunting programs continue to keep the pronghorn in balance with its range, preventing dramatic surges and dips that come with over-population and starvation.

Fishermen are the folks who have been working to overcome the habitat devastation that has destroyed the breeding numbers of many native fish species, including the salmon. Fishermen dollars paid for hatcheries, salmon ladders, native trout protection and re-introduction, and other programs designed to protect and restore native fish species around the country.

The list of other animals who have rebounded in numbers as the result of modern sportsmen's programs and hunter's dollars is substantial. Elk, wild turkeys, deer, waterfowl, bighorns, mountain goats, moose, caribou, upland birds and a variety of non-game fish, wildlife and bird species have rebounded as the result of hunters and the programs they started.

Groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Unlimited and a host of other hunter groups have done their part. They spent untold dollars to restore habitat, purchase wintering range, re-establish and restore native species to their historic range and protect wildlife from the constant encroachment of civilization. They are the ones who are really working to protect the wildlife from cruel and inhumane conditions.

Nature is decidedly inhumane in the way it balances wildlife with the capacity of the land. Animal predators are very cruel in the way kill, often beginning to eat their prey before it is dead. Starvation lingers for weeks before it exacts its toll. In comparison, a hunter's bullet or fisherman's creel is swift and humane.

If we compare the efforts and gains of the two sides, wildlife has benefited far more from hunter's programs than it has from anti-hunter programs. Think not? If so, answer these questions.

Which species of bird or animal did an anti-hunting group retrieve from the brink of extinction? I can name more than a dozen who were rescued by hunters.

Which anti-hunting group has purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat to benefit all kinds of wildlife, including non-game species? I can name several hunter's programs and groups that have.

Which species of native fish did anti-fishermen rescue from the brink of extinction? I can name quite a few species that were rescued by fishermen.

So, who are the real friends of wildlife? ~ Al Campbell

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