One of the biggest and most important events in recent Canadian conservation history was held in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Ontario, in May. The four-day “Conservation Congress” (www.nfwcc.com) was unprecedented and is being heralded as the greatest event of its kind ever held in Canada.
Conservation Force was a full partner in the Congress, as were Dallas Safari Club, the Wild Sheep Foundation and Boone & Crockett Club. We are proud to state that Conservation Force board member Shane Mahoney was the Honorary Chair of the Congress and key organizer of the whole event. Of particular note, Shane did it all under the name of, and as representative of, Conservation Force throughout the event. “Shane Mahoney, Director, Conservation Force.”
I too was a speaker on the image of hunting and building greater public acceptance of sustainable use of wildlife. Additionally, I served on the Expert Panel of Laws and Policies that identified the challenges and opportunities in that arena in the 21st century and beyond.
Over 500 US and Canadian conservation leaders attended this historic event. The objective was to develop a realistic agenda for action and wildlife priorities and to launch “go forward positions.” The importance of the Congress was really brought home when the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper appeared as the banquet speaker and announced the formation of a Prime Minister’s National Hunting and Fishing Panel, HAP, to guide Canada into the future. What a development! The prime minister said Canada would also adopt a National Conservation Plan, as suggested by the Conservation Congress, covering conservation of wildlife and habitat as well as restoring and recovering species at risk, which will all start with a nationwide survey. The prime minister also announced the elimination of Canada’s long-gun registration to the cheers of the dinner audience. The prime minister stated that “hunters and anglers are among the most ardent and dedicated conservationists.” Later, the Honorable Peter Kent, minster of the environment, said “the two (hunting and conservation) are naturally reinforcing…I get it.”
The agenda for the 21st century can’t be covered in this space, but let me assure you, as Shane said in his closing, this was a “seminal event” that “set the bar high.” The North American Model that was never too far from discussion was said to be under attack by some, but Shane pointed out that the Model is a “conceptual framework” that should be “built upon, rather than attacked.” Shane emphasized that conservation needs a broader base, a coalition of conservation organizations to serve as “a force, a Conservation Necklace made of organizations of all those with a passion for the natural world.” This need to grow a broader coalition of kinds of organizations was a consistent theme. “Conservation is important to hunting, and hunting is important to conservation.” That is certainly one reason why conservation matters, but it is also why sportsmen and women need to work with others on the issues we share.
There were many other provoking ideas. Director of US Fish & Wildlife Service Dan Ashe cited the projected human population growth in this century in some detail then stabbed home the point with the statement that sustainable use is an illusion, “the illusion of sustainable use,” to quote, because of that exploding human population growth. That thought echoes in my mind and heightens how important habitat conservation continues to be.
Rosie Cooney, the new Chair of IUCN’s Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, went into a detailed description of the Suleiman markhor project in the Torghar Hills of Pakistan that mesmerized the audience as I squirmed in my seat knowing of Conservation Force’s litigation to save that program from the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s years of “maladministration” of the permits and the two downlisting petitions.
James Earl of the National Wild Turkey Federation made a historical observation of how the Lacey Act had nearly interfered with the reintroduction and restoration of the wild turkey because there had been program costs that were feared to be treated as a sales price for the wild birds, i.e. sale of game is illegal in most states regardless of the purpose. The Habitat Conservation Trust described the 140 million dollars sportsmen generated and that has been matched and multiplied.
Ben Carter of Dallas Safari Club said DSC’s members “live our mission.” Indeed they do. This was carried over by other speakers and credited to Ben over and over as worthy of emulation for all sportsmen and women.
Jack Ward Thomas signed off, “This is our watch…The time is ours. If not us, then who?” Indeed it is our watch, and we should be proud that we are the force: Sportsmen are the force.