Projects and Issues

Step Up for Wildlife

The Value of Wildlife Activism;

Is History Repeating Itself?

When you hear the word “Activism” used in context with fish and wildlife conservation, do you envision young men and women carrying street-side signs and shouting at passers by? Today, that tired generalization isn’t exactly an accurate picture.

Packed Housae Grassroots activism is the assertive pursuit of people of all ages, sportspersons stepping up to the plate to help ensure self-perpetuating fish and wildlife populations, abundant hunting/angling opportunities, and a healthy landscape because they have a passion for them. Today this might include emailing, blogging, meeting with decision makers, mini-blogging or twittering, writing, calling or attending a hearing.

 Admittedly, such a passion has historically proven to be an extra-valuable asset in both returning our whitetail deer, pronghorn, and Rocky Mountain elk from extirpation in the late 19th Century and maintaining the abundance of species through the late 20th Century.

 Theodore Roosevelt bemoaned the terrible loss of what presumed by many to be an unlimited supply of wildlife through the 1800s. The deteriorating condition of big-game herds was chronicled by a contemporary of T.R.’s who rode from Medora, North Dakota, near where TR had his ranch operation, to Washington State, a journey of a thousand miles. He remarked that he was never out of sight of a dead buffalo and never in sight of a live one! The revelation struck T.R. as, at the same time, remarkable and devastating and it left him despondent at the prospect of a sterile Great Plains. Before long, T.R. “executed” his passion into “action” by founding the Boone and Crockett Club.

 With the likes of fellow sportsmen Gifford Pinchot, George Bird Grinnell, and William Tecumseh Sherman, they strove to honor and emulate ethical hunters and outdoorsmen like Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett, who loved the outdoors and earthly pursuits. In addition to authoring a famous “fair chase” statement of hunter ethics [1], the club with T.R.’s leadership worked for the elimination of industrial hunting, creation of wildlife reserves and development of conservation-minded regulation of hunting. T.R.’s “activist” efforts are John Gibsonwell known to members of MWF and we honor his memory.

 Following this lead over the years since, the every-day hunter and angler became the driving force behind conservation. Volunteering free time and money to fight for restrictions that would allow game to recover, planting lakes and streams with fish, and then taxing ourselves so that there was money to pay for programs into the future, these were the first forms of grassroots activism. Sportsmen and sportswomen cared so much that they were willing to expend almost any amount of energy and overcome any adversity to ensure a wildlife future. 

 The efforts succeeded; today we live in a day of plenty, thanks to sportsmen, but it’s an ongoing battle.

 MWF began its Wildlife Activist Network in the current form, now known as the Sportsmen’s Advocate Network (SAN) in 1995 consisting of the now familiar Master Leader List, Sentry List, and Legislative Phone Trees. It became the model for conservation activism adopted by many wildlife federations and sportsmen’s clubs across the West and beyond. With it we’ve accomplished a great deal:  Habitat Montana, stream and bridge access, recreational use of State Lands, the Block Management Program, the Fishing Access Enhancement Program, and game farm regulations all came from the “actions’ of the sportspeople in Montana.

 When California US Representative, Richard Pombo, requested a bill to sell off Forest Service land, public land, our Master Leaders and Sentries were the first to respond. Before the measure was killed, 384 rod and gun clubs nation-wide signed onto a letter protesting this fire-sale of our public estate, stopping this action in its tracks.

 Hunting, fishing and wildlife are deeply embedded in our culture.  Montana’s natural landscapes and wildlife abundance is why many of us choose to live here and many others choose to visit.  This abundance has not just happened by accident but is due to people standing up and saying…”we want fish and game in our lives”, “we want public access to them” and “we want them to be managed in the best interest for the public as a whole”.

 Occasionally some of our members refer to MWF as “you” but in reality it is your passion that compels decision makers to ensure our fish and wildlife resources, our hunting/fishing legacy, and public access to public lands. If you don’t step up, who will?  Who will speak to solve the problem of gates on public roads, or the weakening of the FWP Commission’s authority? Who will stand up for biologically managed big game – elk, bison, lions or wolves? Who will stand up for pugovblic access to public lands and waters? Who will defend our hunting/fishing heritage?

 The value of being a hunting/angling “activist” today is that when future generations look back, they will NOT look back on our times and say, “ah, those were the good old days”.  

 Please join a network of sportspeople actively working to conserve our Montana wildlife, lands, waters and our fair-chase hunting and angling heritage. Become an active participant in the future of Montana’s fish and wildlife heritage by joining YOUR MWF.   

 Today is indeed the “Good-old Days”.  Help us pass it on - ensure them for tomorrow! 

 Please contact Larry Copenhaver, Conservation Director of Local Issues by email at lcopenhaver@mtwf.org or by calling 1-800-517-7256, ext 104.

 Thank you in advance for stepping up for Montana’s wildlife, lands, waters, and fair-chase hunting and angling heritage.


Montana Wildlife Federation      5530 N. Montana Ave., Helena, MT 59601      Mailing address: PO Box 1175, Helena, MT 59624
Phone: 406-458-0227      Fax: 406-458-0373      Toll Free: 1-800-517-7256      Email: mwf@mtwf.org
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