Hunters and Anglers Target Global Warming

Today is National Hunting and Fishing Day, America’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of honoring our nation’s first conservationists — hunters and anglers. Hunting and fishing under modern regulations are important not only for managing wildlife but also as bedrock traditions for sportsmen and women nationwide.

Nationwide, an estimated 40 million Americans hunt or fish each year. They also account for one in every five votes cast at election time. Whether Americans hunt or fish with their children, as a hobby or to make a living, the core of the tradition is being connected to the natural world.
And the natural world, hunters and anglers are telling us, is in trouble.

A principal finding from a national survey of American sportsmen in May was that fully seven out of 10 of them are concerned the fish and wildlife populations where they typically hunt or fish will decrease significantly or disappear within the next decade.

One cause of that concern, the poll found, is global warming. It is instructive, but not really surprising, that the alarm is being sounded by those closest to nature — hunters and anglers whose experience comes from the fields and forests, the streams and wetlands that echo the first harbingers of a changing climate.

Hunting and angling follows nature’s heartbeat of seasonal cycles, a heartbeat that wildlife follows in its cycles of migration, spawning, and hibernation. As ambassadors to the natural world, hunters and anglers are the first to sense and feel stress on the very web of life.

What they are sensing and feeling in overwhelming majorities is that global warming is already happening in the forests, marshes and wetlands, where their traditions have flourished for generations.

They are seeing earlier springs, hotter summers, and shorter, warmer winters, and most notably, a decrease in wildlife populations. And a majority of them, the poll found, are making the connection that what they are experiencing is linked to global warming.   

The upside to all this is that like most Americans, hunters and anglers are problem solvers, not hand wringers. They know that when we follow our values we can accomplish anything.

The national survey found that sportsmen overwhelmingly believe that investing in renewable energy will strengthen the economy and that developing innovative and efficient ways to reduce global warming pollution will produce a new generation of jobs.

Among those already taking action on global warming are many not content to wait for politicians to lead.

On this National Hunting and Fishing Day, a diverse coalition of Montana’s citizens are in conference in Montana to develop a strategy for lawmakers to address global warming in Big Sky country. California is moving forward with an initiative to cut global warming pollution by 25 percent by the year 2020. Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states signed onto the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 10 percent by 2019.

These are examples of steps in the right direction, but we can’t stop there.   Sportsmen, guardians of the wild, realize that we have a moral responsibility to confront global warming to protect our children’s future. We will not be passive bystanders as our cherished habitats begin to disappear. The ominous signs of global warming must serve us as an inspiration for urgent public action.
Schweiger, an avid hunter and angler, is president of the National Wildlife Federation, headquartered in Reston, Va. For more information on global warming and the complete poll results discussed visit:

Published: September 23, 2006