MISSOULA, Mont.—When Theodore Roosevelt called the first White House conference on conservation in 1908, America craved wild game but many species were dwindling.
A century later, wild game is abundant but now the craving is beginning to subside.
This reversal, says Boone and Crockett Club President Lowell E. Baier, is no less dangerous to the future of wildlife.
In his address to over 500 conservation leaders at last week’s White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy, Baier warned, “Diminishing participation in hunting and waning interest and demand for wild game will continue to create complex challenges—including financial, political and judicial setbacks—for all wildlife.”
The conference, held Oct. 1-3 in Reno, Nev., was the first White House-convened major summit on conservation since Roosevelt. Though a hundred years apart, both conferences were well represented by one organization: the Boone and Crockett Club.
Roosevelt founded the Club in 1887 to guide wildlife restoration and management. In 1908, members like Gifford Pinchot and George Bird Grinnell helped Roosevelt and White House conferees understand and begin to address conservation issues of their day.
“Last week, with over 40 Boone and Crockett Club members among the 500-plus passionate and bright minds in attendance, Roosevelt certainly would have been proud,” said Baier.
Roosevelt’s vision of collaboration and legacy of appointing hunters as the standard-bearers of conservation were summoned again in Reno. The conference, called by President Bush via Executive Order No. 13443, collected input for a 10-year Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan.
This bi-partisan blueprint for the future is being drafted by the staffs of the U.S. departments of Interior, Agriculture and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, along with representatives of the Sporting Conservation Council and American Wildlife Conservation Partners, according to Bob Model, chairman of the Boone and Crockett Club and chairman of the Sporting Conservation Council.
“This plan will set the stage for the next century in conservation and wildlife management,” said Model.
The plan will be given a Presidential Seal demonstrating federal commitment to hunting heritage and wildlife conservation, then passed to the next Administration.
Expected for completion in late November, the plan will address:
- Perpetuating and strengthening the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
- Managing wildlife and habitat at state, tribal and federal levels.
- Ensuring dependable funding for wildlife conservation.
- Perpetuating hunter traditions through education, recruitment and retention.
- Maintaining access to public and private lands.
- Coordinating oil and gas development and wildlife conservation.
- Identifying impacts of climate change on wildlife.
“Obviously, much has changed since Roosevelt was president of the Boone and Crockett Club, but he would have been impressed at how 2008 White House conference attendees set aside personal differences and organizational agendas to focus on the common good. There was no grandstanding. People came to be part of the process,” said Baier.
He added, “Roosevelt also would share the concern about hunting’s reversal of fortunes, slowly and invisibly eating away at the system that is America’s best hope for managing a wide range of wildlife issues.”
However, Baier said he’s confident that Roosevelt’s enduring spirit, passion and commitment will guide today’s conservation community to modern solutions.
Visit wildlifeconservation.gov for more about the 10-year Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan.