By Lance Cherry, New Mexico Dept. of Game & Fish
I’m concerned about the future of conservation. I’m concerned about the incremental changes that chip away at our foundation and I am concerned in our efforts to reach new customers; we may be sacrificing many of those who got us here.
Last month Trout Unlimited (TU) announced an end to publishing photos of fish not at least partially submerged in the water on the online pages of TROUT Magazine. Following their #NoFishDryJuly campaign, they proclaimed, “Gone are the hero shots and the grip-and-grins,” and they laid out the challenge for others to do the same.
A week later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the end to the “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” theme from its annual Federal Duck Stamp contest. Their press release even managed to replace conservation with preservation when discussing how funding from the stamp has preserved roughly 6 million acres of wetlands since the 1930s.
In their effort to curb the sting of betrayal to waterfowlers, they rolled their message back, stating, “The key point here is that it is not taking away hunting. It is continuing to allow the flexibility for artists to include hunting and give a nod to the hunting heritage.”
While on face value, I am very supportive of moving away from traditional grip and grins, I struggle with the total abandonment of showing our anglers and their catches. I struggle because I believe there is a better way to capture and share those special moments while respecting the differences in other’s values. It’s a conversation we’ve started in the past but never finished.
I also struggle with the idea of any wildlife agency diminishing the value of our hunting heritage by striking it in such a manner from something as crucial to the hunting community as the duck stamp.
Rather than making progress, I can’t help but feel actions like these may instead create a culture of shame for the very people who pay for conservation and serve a critical role in the management of our wildlife.
I often think back to the frequency my former director reminded us to “never forget who brung ya to the dance.”
Words that are not about hanging on to our past but instead finding balance. Not by sacrificing one customer at the expense of another. They are relevant to our pursuit to adding more, not just new, to expand and not just replace. They are about remembering to stay loyal to the people who got us where we are.
I look forward to tackling the many challenges with you all in the coming year and thank you for bringing me to this dance.