Outdoor Articles

Do You Really Care About Conservation?

by T.R. Michels on September 29th, 2009 in Conservation and Restoration

I’ve been watching several programs on the Science, Discovery, History, National Geographic and  Planet Green channels lately. One program that really caught my attention was called the Spirit Walk (or something similar). It chronicled the adventure of the first white man to ever  be allowed to take part in one of the rituals of the Aborigines of Australia. It had a lot to do with passing on the ancient rituals of the Aborigines to the younger, more modern generation. What intrigued me was how the Aborigines felt that the spiritual world of their religion, was intertwined with natural world, and how they felt that they, as a people, had a responsibility to preserve nature as it was, for the current generation, and future generations. And the elders of the tribe felt that if they did not pass on these intertwined beliefs, that both nature and humans would suffer.

This reminded me of how the Native Americans believed many of the same things. And it reminded me of one of the verses in the Bible, which states, “Let them (man) have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.” (Gn. 1:26 NAB). And I began to look at how we, as 21st century humans, look at the natural world, and how we have treated it – not very well. We’ve cut down over 80 percent of the world’s forests, which has led to runoff of precipitation in many areas, along with the erosion of valuable surface soils. It has also led to less oxygen and higher levels of carbon dioxide, which has caused the green house effect, with its higher temperatures and melting of glaciers and polar ice caps. This in turn, has led to lower saline levels and pollution of the saltwater oceans and seas, which affects weather patterns worldwide.

Our use of natural resources (especially the renewable ones such as plants and wildlife) has depleted the population numbers of countless species, condemned some to survival only in captivity, and others to extinction. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) , at least 816 species are known to have gone extinct as a result of human activity in the last 500 years. The actual number is probably much higher that. The extinct animals in North America alone include the Eastern Elk and Merriam’s Elk, and the Tule Elk population is probably below 3000 animals. The extinct birds include the Heath Hen, the Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet. Without the help of sportsman, the White-tailed Deer and Wild Turkey may have been on that list. As it is, the Gould’s Turkey population may be as low as 250,000 birds. And at least 25 other birds (such as the Eastern Brown Pelican, the Whooping Crane, our national bird the Bald Eagle, Atwater’s Greater Prairie Chicken, the Piping Plover and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker) are either endangered or threatened. 

As a person who has been fascinated with nature since I was  about 7 years old (53 years), a hunter since I was 12 years old, a big game researcher since 1990, and an avid birder and wildflower enthusiast for the last three years, I’ve seen my interest in preservation and conservation of both wildlife and wild places, grow over, but more so in the last two years, as I spend more time birding. I think it is because I actually spend more time paying attention to everything around me when I am birding, as opposed to being focused on hunting. The more time I spend in the wilds, the more I realize how much we humans have negatively impacted the habitats that wildlife and plants rely on. 

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One of the most noticeable signs of human impact on nature is the trash we leave behind. It is hard to go on a birding trip without seeing pop bottles and cans, and paper, styrofoam and plastic along the trails, especially near or on water. And much of it has been left by fishermen.

Hunters may not see as much trash, because they often get farther off the beaten path, but I’ve been 20 miles from a trailhead in the Teton Wilderness Area, and seen tin cans, glass and plastic at an old campsite. We should all try to live by the motto “if you pack it in you can pack it out”. But, how many of us pick up trash (left behind by others) when we see it? I generally keep a garbage bag in our car, because I’m always picking up trash along trails, and bringing it back to a parking lot dumpster, or our car. Do you do it?

I’m sure most of us have lost some hunting property to development, and gravel roads have carved up just about every national forest I’ve ever visited or hunted. And  sooner or later those roads channel runoff water, turn into gullies, and new roads are cut because the gully is too deep to navigate. And the runoff  from those roads pollutes streams, rivers, ponds and lakes, and destroys habitat.

Big game hunters may see less habitat loss than birders do, because the flatlands, meadows and prairies, that harbor several species of small mammals, reptiles and songbirds (many of which are in jeopardy), and several plant species (including wildflowers, which big game hunters refer to as forbs), are more amenable to development than forests or mountainous areas. But, those areas are serve as nesting habitat for upland birds and waterfowl, so it does affect hunters.     

My disgust at the way we treat nature, is not only because I am a hunter, researcher, hiker and bird and wildflower enthusiast, but because of my Christian upbringing – which leads me back to that verse in the Bible. The word dominion basically means we can do whatever we want with the animals, but it also implies that we have a responsibility – a responsibility to protect, preserve and conserve nature. And we are doing a very poor job of it.

As I watched one of the programs on the Planet Green channel, I became acutely aware of the fact that we may already be at the tipping point, where, unless we start taking care of nature, as it has taken care of us, for thousands of years,  we may not be able to reverse the effects of global warming, caused by deforestation; and air pollution, caused by our use of fossil fuels; and the loss of clean water, caused by poor land management practices and the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. If we continue the way we are, global warming and air and water pollution may bring us (humans) to the brink of extinction, maybe not for several generations, but, if we continue, it may very well happen.

I don’t know that anyone can get all of humanity to believe that the spiritual world of the Christian God Yahweh (or whatever other spirituality they believe in), and the natural world, are intertwined, and that as believers in a spiritual world, we have a responsibility to change our ways and treat nature with a lot more respect than we have been. However, I think we can get humanity to realize that we have to change how we interact with nature, or we may sooner or later loose the animals we love to hunt and fish, or just watch and enjoy; and we may become extinct ourselves.

The question we have to ask  ourselves is, do we have a responsibility to speak up, to make known to others, that we have to find ways to leave less of an impact on nature. Not only to protect, preserve and conserve what is left of nature, but to increase the forests of the world, and all of the other ecosystems that are needed to sustain life as we know it on Earth.

Personally, as a Christian, my answer is yes, I do have a responsibility to try and save nature. I’m not sure how I can do it, or how much of an impact I can have on my readers and seminar attendees, but I know I have to try, or I am not being true to my Christian beliefs and  my God. If I have learned anything by my attempts to expose the Scent Lok advertising as a fraud, and their product as a scam, it is that one person can make a difference (And it is my sense of truth and fairness, as a result of being a Christian, that caused me to take on Scent Lok). So, if any of you want to join me, or have any ideas what we, as the spokesmen and spokeswomen of the hunting community,  can do, let me know. Contact me at TRMichels@yahoo.com.

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