“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” So said Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Ben was right, and his sentiment was true not only in 1776 – it’s still true in so many, many ways.
Hunting seasons are gradually drawing to a close and the time for Christmas bird counts begins.
I know some hunters who think all birders are naïve, effete environmentalists – and some birders who think all hunters are evil, bloodthirsty killers. But I also have friends that are hunters who watch songbirds while they hunt bigger game. Other friends are birders who hunt and who realize that hunters are the only realistic means of keeping white-tailed deer from destroying the forest understory needed by wood thrush, ovenbirds and a host of other species.
All too often the hook and bullet crowd and the chickadee chasers are busy criticizing each other and fighting against even the most reasonable proposal from the other folks. Meanwhile, as these two groups, who should be natural allies, are arguing the field (and the forest too) is left to the developers and the exploiters.
If we look back, many of the pillars of conservation in this country were both birders and hunters wrapped in one:
· George Grinnell, in the 1870s, was part of many expeditions exploring the American west; he hunted in the northern Rocky Mountains, was one of the founders of the Boone and Crockett Club, and organized the first Audubon Society.
· George Shiras 3d was an avid hunter and fisherman who pioneered the use of camera traps in the late 1800s and, as a U.S. Congressman, introduced legislation to protect migratory birds.
|From Northern Michigan Uniersity|
· Teddy Roosevelt, the president who brought us National Forests and National Wildlife Refuges, made an extensive list of the bird species he’d seen, and hunted in the American west and Africa.
· Aldo Leopold, the acknowledged father of wildlife management and in 1933 authored the first text on the subject, was also a bird bander who wrote about his hunting trips and often wrote about songbirds.
|From Aldo Leopold|
What Happened?? When and why the two groups, that were once allies, parted ways doesn’t really matter anymore and is best left to historians. What does matter now is that if they can’t work together more and more of the habitat that wildlife needs will be developed into residential subdivisions or big box stores, or will be impacted by mineral extraction. For assuredly there are those who, for their own purposes, benefit by keeping the feud going.
If the people, hunters and non-hunters, who care about wildlife don’t hang together they will “hang” separately as habitat and wildlife disappear.