by Stephen Capra
So the hot days of July are beginning to recede; it is a time where one can begin to sense the early outlines of fall. Soon it will be time to stack wood and check the windows. Though fall remains a good distance away in these lands of sun and cactus, one can begin to sense a small shift. Fall is perhaps the best season in New Mexico; it is when the weather and the land come together to sparkle in a bust of cool relief, and calm but shorter days. Yet it is also the beginning of the killing season, one that is repeated not only here, but in a more defined manner across the West.
What joy does the killing of something so wild and beautiful bring to those who insist on stealing such life? When was it said that part of becoming a man is defined by such actions? In our state, Game and Fish departments spend time and resources with children to teach them the basics of “How to kill”.
They want a new generation of kids to learn to trap, shoot, or use a bow to kill that which is wild. The question is why? Why in this time of species being lost world-wide and habitat being lost are we in a much focused manner still teaching children to kill? Why are Game and Fish Departments across the country still trying to make the art of killing wildlife seem relevant?
Well of course there is that word, “Culture;” it seems to be a metaphor for maintaining that which a small minority feels they must inflict their views on to a much larger and opposed majority. Thus we will hear the NRA and endless sportsmen’s groups speak of killing like some kind of religion. Trying to be more modern or engaged, we see a far larger push to bring women and young girls into the killing fold. If you look at Game and Fish pages there seems to be an interest in showing a young girl, gun in hand standing, by a dead deer or elk with the glowing parents standing in approval.
The other more apparent reason for such a new educational push by these departments is self-survival. For every year the hunting population seems to continue to decline, yet they remain in control of the agency that can have the most direct impact on wildlife and endangered species.
But for Game and Fish departments, the handwriting is on the wall. Without a new generation of killers, they will lose the clout and ability to “control” wildlife, and to set the standards by which they will be killed. Besides the pure PR value of engaging children, there is the need to demonstrate a level of support that translates into funding and support from state legislators. Naturally, a photo op full of kids with the Governor does not hurt either.
Getting a new generation of children to learn to hunt and trap is not the direction our wildlife or wilderness need. We must educate our children to use cameras, to write, to film, to leave not bloody carcasses or wounded wildlife, but to take a moment of such beauty with art—not weapons—and share that magic of wildness with the world.
I do not have children, but if I did, much like the recruitment into the military, I would push my children away from the hype and the glory associated with killing. Such one size fits all mentality led to the destruction of so much that we see as wild. No I would push them to explore that creative side of themselves that speaks to the special nature of wildness. To honor wildlife and respect their right to co-exist, while understanding their important role in a healthy environment.
Game and Fish Departments across our country must be changed, they must have a real conservation voice in their midst; they must not educate children to kill, but rather to preserve and respect wildlife. Their future should speak to restoration of lands and waters, to using real science and to get kids out on the land and moving, not sitting in a tree with a gun preparing to kill.
The reforms of this agency come in many forms and needs, but one thing is clear: we must end the poisoning of our next generation to the needs of an agency that has not allowed its policies to enter into the 21st century. Using children to aid in the continuing destruction of wildlife and wilderness is not in the best interests of the future of our public lands; our job is to change the course of such cultural deficiencies, and to get this agency to become a force, not for killing, but rather environmental reform.
Bold Visions Conservation