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Get Involved With A Conservation Group

BY NATE KENNEDY

NOTE: Nate Kennedy is a Liverpool resident who works in Waterloo. An Ogdensburg native, he is a lifelong hunter and angler who holds an master's degree in environmental communication from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he is a 4-H educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. Kennedy loves to write about and share his outdoor pursuits and his column appears the final Sunday of the month.

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The winter months are passing by, and spring is on its way. As I look forward to longer days, warmer weather, and chasing stream trout, I can’t help but feel thankful for another changing of the seasons. It is such a wonderful thing to experience the different times of year in New York state, and to take part in as many hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities as possible. I can’t imagine living somewhere that did not offer such variety. As I sit and think about my appreciation for the places around me, I am also grateful for the incredible people who give their time, money, and livelihoods to protect it.

That would include a whole lot of folks, but one group in particular comes to mind — the conservationists — those who give all they can for the woods, water, and wildlife that we love. Conservation organizations, both old school and new, are alive and well. Some may have declining memberships, but others have long waiting lists.

Some may only meet once a month at the nearby rod and gun club, while others thrive in a digital space and meet only once in a while for face to face communication. Regardless, you can and should get involved!

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, conservation ideals grew in popularity. Declining populations in a variety of species across North America gave way to a new way of thinking. Conservation organizations began to form across the US in the name of protecting land, water and wildlife, not only for its intrinsic value, but for the purpose of hunting and fishing, and the benefit of all. Many of the conservation organizations born in this era are still around today, from your local sportsmen’s club to larger organizations.

These groups are celebrated for their successes in reviving species’ that had become severely threatened, recruiting masses of hunters, trappers, and anglers, and keeping the American hunting heritage alive over the years. The beauty of conservation organizations and their respective conservation communities is that they are dynamic, rooted in history and full of opportunity and potential. Be it a small, local conservation club, a state chapter, a national group or a virtual community, there are great opportunities to get involved, have fun and do your part.

Conservation in the Finger Lakes

I never had the pleasure of meeting Wayne Brewer, who wrote this column for years. I wish I could have sat with him and asked him about his long career in conservation. Though I never got the chance to meet him in person, I have got to know his legacy over the last year or so.

The impact of his presence in the Finger Lakes is palpable. I think he would be proud of his home county, and the great conservation communities that it has to offer. The Seneca County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, which is comprised of local sportsmen's clubs, rod and gun clubs, and various conservation organizations, is a terrific example of conservation and advocacy at work. Similarly, the Finger Lakes Conservation Council, Montezuma Audubon Center, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, local Ducks Unlimited and National Wild Turkey Federation chapters, various nature centers, local fish and game clubs, countless nonprofit organizations and more provide great opportunities to join a conservation community in the Finger Lakes. The local level is where it all begins, but it only goes on from there! State and regional opportunities

If you are seeking a larger community to get involved with, there is no shortage of regional and state organizations that provide countless opportunities for conservation, education, mentorship and more. The aforementioned Seneca County Federation, along with others like it from around the state, make up the New York State Conservation Council. The council is a state-wide group of volunteers who are dedicated to advocating for sportsmen and women, tracking important legislation, and maintaining a working relationship with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

State and regional chapters of organizations like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Quality Deer Management Association, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Whitetails Unlimited and others serve as the collective voice for hunters, trappers, and anglers in New York state. These groups offer opportunities for social events, fundraising, shooting sports, education and advocacy. Many of them also provide “boots on the ground” conservation work in the form of habitat restoration, wildlife research and more. They provide a solid variety of conservation communities.

National organizations

Many of these groups exist in strong numbers at a national level. The list includes Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Quality Deer Management Association, Trout Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and many others. If you are seeking funding for education or conservation programs, youth involvement, habitat for wildlife research data, or anything else related to the conservation of wildlife in the United States, these communities would be a great place to start your search.

Virtual conservation communities

It should be noted that the local rod and gun club and state conservation organization is still monumentally important. You should join one or both if you have the chance. The membership of such clubs is an invaluable resource for up and coming sportsmen and women, as well as to the hunting heritage that many of us strive to protect. They offer in person experiences that are fun and impactful, and they provide an incredible community that is fun to be a part of.

That said, I want to give a nod to the new school. Virtual conservation communities, podcasts and social media platforms create a space for conservation and advocacy that is becoming increasingly popular in the world of outdoor recreation. These channels of communication are crafting a community and increasing participation in conversations that matter. This is not to say that one is more relevant or more important than the other; rather that both have their place! Podcasts, social media pages, online forums and the like are more and more relevant as we continue onward into the digital age.

If you are looking to check out a fun, friendly, New York state-based community, I suggest the podcasts "East To West Hunting" with Todd Waldron, and "Log Talk" with Pertnear Outdoors. Both found on various podcast platforms, they include weekly conversations about hunting and fishing in our state, as these content creators are building a true conservation community that you can find right in your phone or the speakers in your truck.

Get involved! Join the party!

Get yourself a membership to a local club, a state chapter of your choice, a regional group, or a national organization. Choose more than one if you can! Memberships are inexpensive and well worth your time and money. Participate in the online conservation community as well! Get on Instagram or Facebook and see what these groups have been up to lately. Check out a podcast or two on your next long drive or while you prepare dinner. You won’t regret it. Seek out these communities for opportunities in access, mentorship, belonging, and camaraderie. Look into hunter education, youth hunts, kids fishing days, shooting sports and other programs. Conservation communities have been around for a long time, and they are not going away!





NATE KENNEDY

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