March 20, 2023

Differing Views On What Conservation Is

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I read a letter to the editor yesterday in the Kennebec Journal by Bill Randall of Winthrop. In it he derides the likes of George Smith and Edye Cronk of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, declaring that neither they, nor SAM, are conservationists. He goes on to cite past stands that SAM has taken on certain issues involving conservation. You can read them in his letter.

I am not here to support SAM or George Smith and Edye Cronk. I am also not here to ridicule Mr. Randall. What I would like to point out is that many people are conservationists whether they are a democrat or a republican, conservative or liberal, protestant or catholic. Conservation of our wildlife, which is what we are referencing here, is not unlike many social and political issues – various sides believe different methods should be used to achieve the same goals.

Randall questions whether SAM is a conservationist group because of its opposition to these issues he lists.

Does supporting Sunday hunting, advocating for a hunting season for doves, supporting the trapping of bear, supporting the abolishment of the referendum process on wildlife issues, expanding the moose hunting season, supporting the coyote snaring program and, last but not least, opposing the effort to keep the Allagash Wilderness Waterway a true wilderness waterway sound like conservation?

Randall has some good points and simply because someone advocates hunting, does that make them a non-conservationist? Many true conservationists believe that managing wildlife species by controlling populations is conserving and preserving. A healthy population of any species of wildlife is great conservation. Biologist will agree with this and will also say that hunting is the best means available to achieve that goal.

It is unfortunate that hunters get a bad rap that because we kill animals, we are not interested in conservation. This is simply not true but again it comes back to my opening statement that achieving the goals of good conservation can be accomplished by differing methods. Some people feel more strongly about their methods than some else’s. This is good democracy at work.

I could use the same bad argument that making 6,000 acres of land a wildlife preserve isn’t the absolute best way to be a conservationist. With the knowledge garnered and the science learned by our wildlife experts, we have discovered many useful and valuable ways to better manage our wildlife and habitat. Biologists again would agree that simply leaving 6,000 acres alone and wild may not be the best for the wildlife and the habitat but when humans demand that they want wilderness lands, certain sacrifices are and should be allowed.

Being a conservationist doesn’t mean that you just protect land and what’s on it by shutting out the rest of the world. In a perfect situation, without man interfering, Mother Nature would do a pretty good job. But man is here on this earth and we don’t always do a good job of preserving what we have. Thankfully our wildlife experts are learning how to do that. This is the science we are now left with to manage and conserve. It’s a cooperation between man and nature.

Because someone may believe that turning 6,000 acres of property around Katahdin Lake into wilderness, is the ultimate in conservation and I disagree, I wouldn’t call that person a non-conservationist. They want a wilderness setting. Does that mean then that they are using the best methods to conserve those resources?

Everyone who ventures into the outdoors has an impact on our environment in a negative way. Through education we learn to minimize those impacts. If hikers going up and down the trails leading to Mt. Katahdin, erode the vegetation under foot to where the bare ground is showing, are hikers seen as not being conservationists? What about the rest? – camping, sight-seeing, boating, fishing, etc.

The best way to prohibit environmental damage and be a pure conservationist would be to ban hiking. This of course is ridiculous so we learn how to build hiking trails that have the least amount of destruction to our environment. In some cases, we limit the number of people who can use a recreational resource to also help in minimizing negative impact. It isn’t perfect but it is a compromise.

Conservationists come in all shapes and sizes. In our minds, perhaps some of us are a purest when it comes to conservation. In reality this is not achievable. We use the best resources available to us to achieve the best results and you know what? Sometimes we don’t always agree with the methods.

Tom Remington