Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members on a fence removal project in Washington.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation volunteers on a water tank project. Photo credit: Stefan Wilson
Have you been hunting on public land recently? If so, you have very likely been a recipient of the benefits offered by local and national hunting and conservation groups. These groups function on the money donated by hunters and partners with the work often carried out by volunteers. If you have enjoyed hunting on public land, it might be time to spend some of your money and off-season time to work in the name of conservation.
If you really think about it, hunting as we know it would not exist without the help of conservation groups. They work tirelessly to ensure that access to quality public lands is maintained and work to improve the habitats of big game species across the continent. All of this is done to ensure that hunting continues as a rich heritage for years to come while also ensuring that the wildlife species are thriving. Ultimately, conservation would not exist if it were not for these groups.
The other reality; however, is the fact that many of these groups are supported by a significant corps of volunteers. These volunteers help provide the manpower for conservation projects. Without their help, the projects that have improved habitat across the continent would not have succeeded. From building water catchments to improving land quality, volunteers are the workhorses that drive conservation efforts.
If you are a hunter who uses public lands, you are in a great position to give back and spend some time this off-season working with groups to improve hunting in your area. It is not complicated or difficult to get involved with these groups; you just have to know how. Here are some ways you can get involved:
As mentioned earlier, all conservation and hunting groups need volunteers. Just contact the group you want to work with and ask how you can help or where they need volunteers. They will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Money makes the world go round and it is no different with conservation groups. Conservation costs money, period. If you have money you would like to donate, it will be put to good use. The great thing about outdoor conservation groups is they are very transparent with where money is going so you do not need to worry if it will be used properly. With the majority of conservation groups, 80% to 90% of the funds donated go directly toward conservation efforts (the rest going toward administrative costs). If you want to donate, you can be confident that your money will be put to good use.
All groups need advocates. An advocate is someone who is willing to champion the cause of a group or an individual. While we often think of advocates in a political sense, this is not what our goal should be. As advocates of conservation groups, we must strive to be vocal, present and honorable.
Spreading the word about the work of various conservation groups is key; however, just as important is the ability to communicate the truth when anti-hunting groups try to malign the name of conservation.
An advocate must always be present, meaning he or she must be willing to be a resource and help when needed. Even if this just means being active on social media, an advocate seeks to transmit helpful information at any given time.
A great way to hurt conservation efforts is to hurt the name of conservation groups by lacking integrity. Anti-hunting groups are more than happy to exploit the missteps of those who represent hunting and conservation groups. Whenever you are representing a group, make sure you are acting with this highest level of integrity.
Below are a list of several wildlife conservation groups and their contact information. They are listed in no particular order.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is well-known in the Western hunting community. They are focused on conservation of both public lands and the species that inhabit those lands. The RMEF understands that hunting is conservation and they promote hunting as an effective means of conservation. The RMEF is also heavily involved in the relocation and restoration of elk herds in the lands that this great animal once inhabited across the nation. You can get involved with the RMEF by becoming a member, volunteering with local events and supporting the partners of the RMEF.
The Mule Deer Foundation has quite a few goals, among which are restoring, improving and protecting mule deer habitat (including land and easement acquisitions) and encouraging and supporting responsible wildlife management with government agencies, private organizations and landowners. They also seek to encourage ethical hunting while focusing on the recruitment and retention of youth hunters. The MDF has chapters all over the country where you can become involved. They also have plenty of information on their site to help educate mule deer hunters in their conservation efforts. You can also sign up and donate online.
The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) exists to "enhance wild sheep populations, promote professional wildlife management, educate the public and youth on sustainable use and the conservation benefits of hunting while promoting the interests of the hunter and all stakeholders." What does that really mean? They want to put and keep more sheep on the mountains. With the support of donors and conservation efforts across the continent, they are effectively doing this. You can support the WSF through donation, membership in a local chapter or by attending a WSF convention.
The Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance (RMGA) exists to promote the science-based management of Rocky Mountain goats, and the increase and enhance the management, range, and populations of Rocky Mountain Goats across both native and suitable non-native North American habitats without negatively impacting native ungulates while educating the public of ongoing conservation projects and petitioning for the expansion of sustainable hunting opportunities across the continent. The RMGA manages several goat survery projects all over the west. They also perform disease research and habitat monitoring. You can support the RMGA through volunteer opportunities with these projects and through financial support.
Based on the wishes of Theodore Roosevelt, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) exists to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish by uniting and amplifying partners’ voices to strengthen federal policy and funding. Without the support of the federal government, efforts to conserve public lands will be largely ineffective. The TRCP seeks to ensure that policy is written in the best interest of those public lands. You can support the TRCP by donating or by shopping the Amazon Smile and linking your Amazon account to the TRCP. You can also sign up and have a voice in public land planning.
Since 1972, the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) has been the gathering point for hunters, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. Their mission is to conserve wildlife and wilderness lands, to educate youth and the general public and to promote and protect the rights and interests of hunters worldwide. They do this through annual conventions and expositions, annual sporting clay events, monthly meetings and other member activities, world class publications and a grant in aid program that contributes millions of dollars each year to programs and projects. You can support the DSC through becoming a member or volunteering with a local chapter.
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The National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973 with the sole focus of conserving the wild turkey population and thereby preserving the turkey hunting heritage. Through enhancement of current habitat, educating and raising up new hunters and opening access to new lands, the NWTF is feverishly working to ensure that turkey hunting continues to be a rich hunting experience for anyone who wants to try. You can support the NWTF by joining as a member or volunteering with a local chapter.
Ducks Unlimited is the world's leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation. DU began in 1937 when drought conditions in North America caused waterfowl populations to plunge. DU soon became the foremost authority on waterfowl conservation efforts. You can support DU by becoming a member, volunteering with a local chapter or attending a DU event in your area.
In additional to national groups, there are likely plenty of local conservation groups in your area. Local groups are just as important to the conservation efforts as national groups and often are intimately aware of the idiosyncrasies that are unique to the wildlife in your area. Search for local groups you can get involved with in your area.
There are also groups focused specifically on the recruitment and retention of young hunters. These groups understand that the future of hunting and conservation is in the hands of the boys and girls who are just starting to take an interest in hunting. If you also value this truth, then get involved with a local group that is youth-focused so that you can do your part to ensure a rich future for the young people of this country.
There are so many ways that you can get involved with various conservation groups throughout the country. If you have enjoyed hunting in this country, you have likely been the recipient of the conservation efforts of one or more of the groups mentioned in this article. Why not say thank you by giving back and spending your time this off-season volunteering and supporting them. You will not only be giving back to those who work so hard for you; you will also be investing in those who will come after you.