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Teddy Roosevelt could teach us much on conservation

January 20, 2012
By Tim Kobasic - Outdoors writer , Daily Press

ESCANABA - If there ever was a way to get a wish placed on my bucket list that could come true, it would be to spend at least an afternoon in the presence of the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold or Gifford Pinchot.

These gentlemen are credited for creating an essential part of what is today's fundamental conservation ethics.

I would love to have the time to illustrate for them what we now see as a result of their efforts to set aside large tracts of wild land for public enjoyment and management.

I would ask them to advise me where they think we as stewards of the natural resources could do better in making sure future generations have the same opportunity, the quality of life that some of us seem to take for granted.

Have we wandered away from the approach to conservation of wildlife and access to forests that they established?

Those same questions have been brought to the public eye in our era by the likes of observations from Jim Posewitz, the founder of Orion - The Hunter's Institute.

Fact Box

Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.

He brings the points I mentioned forward, merging historical accounts of action by these fathers in conservation, through books he's authored including "Inherit The Hunt - A Journey Into the Heart of American Hunting."

In this book, Posewitz singles out Roosevelt and his relation to that of the common hunter. It is interesting to learn that in many ways, Theodore Roosevelt was, except for technological advances, exactly like many of us today.

Posewitz writes: "Traveling from his North Dakota Ranch by saddle horse, pack string, and wagon, he probed the deep corners of extensive wild lands for the vanishing virgin abundance of big game."

If he were here today, I believe Roosevelt would most likely leave his ranch by ATV, perhaps one larger than most so that enough provisions could be carried that would extend his time afield. He would respect the terrain and work to tread lightly.

Once he arrived to his preferred hunting grounds, he would utilize his skills and interpret that habitat to make his encounter with game a strong possibility.

I believe Roosevelt would suggest to those who might accompany him that they hold a responsibility to the citizens of this country, who all share ownership the natural resources, to exercise strong ethics in traveling afield and in the taking of game and to not exploit either to their ability, but to a level of need.

His party would be bound by hunting regulations established for the good of wildlife, versus personal greed.

Roosevelt's philosophy was driven by the fact that he saw himself as a member of a community of hunters. Back then it was a community of people who would have to be called upon to restore the vanishing wildlife on a national scale.

Posewitz confirms how Roosevelt was quite clear on that point. Again in his words:

"It is foolish to regard proper game-laws as undemocratic, unrepublican. On the contrary, they are essentially in the interest of the people as a whole, because it is through their enactment and enforcement that the people as a whole can preserve the game and can prevent its becoming purely the property of the rich, who are able to create and maintain extensive private preserves. The wealthy man can get hunting anyhow, but the man of small means is dependent solely upon wise and well-executed game-laws for his enjoyment of the sturdy pleasures of the chase."

In 1905, Roosevelt addressed the process of keeping North American forests and wildlife from destruction by stating:

"Above all else, we should realize that the effort toward this end is essentially a democratic movement. It is in our power to preserve large tracts of wilderness and to preserve 'game' for all lovers of nature, and to give reasonable opportunities for the exercise of the skill of the hunter, whether he is or is not a man of means.

"The movement for the conservation of wildlife, and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources, are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose and method."

Perhaps Posewitz has answered the questions I'd raise to Roosevelt, Leopold and Pinchot.

Those of us involved with conservation efforts in Michigan are facing a significant era of change. The model of natural resources management used prior to today is no longer feasible and is being turned back to the community, mostly the outdoors user community.

We need to partner in a democracy and provide input and hands-on effort to assure our forests and wildlife are managed for the good of all the people, even those who do not participate.

If we do, our stewardship will be respected and acknowledged by those same people and encouraged to continue.

Regionalized natural resources management of the State of Michigan has been underway for almost two years. Public participation is increasing and will bring a stronger sense of autonomy back to the local level.

Conservation organizations are joining to better understand each other's needs and disciplines, and then working to help each other by investment of funds and volunteer man power to carry forward our obligation, or as writer George Bird Grinnell of Forest and Stream, (the leading sportsmen's magazine in the days of Roosevelt et al), "(for) the greatest good for the greatest number".



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