I am a hunter who relies on our Wildlife and Wildlands to harvest meat to feed my family. Naturally, conservation of these resources is near and dear to me. Who takes care of our Wilderness anyway? Is it you? If not, than it very easily can be. So easy, I dare say you'd hardly notice that you are acting as a conservationist in your every day life. Heck, you may already be doing positive things for the environment without even knowing it!
Let's start with narrowing the concept of "CONSERVATION" from a cumbersome global scale to a much more manageable, day to day one. You see, there are many different areas of conservation. We often think of conservation of energy, water, species, native plants just to name a few and it can be overwhelming to think about how you can affect all of them at once. So let's break it down a bit.
As a hunter, I will be focusing on ways I act as a conservationist through mindfulness, balanced action and food choices.
WILDLIFE LAWS ARE THERE FOR A REASON:
The folks at your local Dept o Fish and Game have access to way more data than you do enabling then to have a clear picture of what's happening in your local wilderness. They have a broad understanding that helps them make educated decisions about how much we can take from the land and where we need to let the land recover. So simply by NOT over hunting and NOT over fishing, you are acting as a conservationist. See, you're doing great things for our environment already without lifting a finger!
BUY ORGANIC OR PLANT A GARDEN
If it is within your budget to spend the extra dough for organic produce, go for it! Supporting farmers who are not dumping huge numbers of pesticides onto our soil and who are responsible for the chemical run off that polutes our waterways is a simple way to support a more balanced planet. You get to eat the same fruits and veggies, they are just healthier for you and healthier for the environment.
That said, in many households, the dollar rules all. Organic produce may not me as high of a priority as diapers or car repair. As an alternative option, you can plant your own organic garden. It's a really cheap, sustainable, stress-relieving, independent option. Even if you don't have access to outdoor space, you could consider a window box or roof top garden. I mean, how cool would it be to say to your family, "Tonight's tomatoe sauce cost pennies, is healthy, organic AND came from our garden!" ? Speaking from personal experience having grown my own vegetables and herbs in a window box garden....it's awesome!
FISH AND SEAFOOD:
There are plenty of fishing opportunities here in Virgina which offer me more ways to connect to my environment through the ethical harvest of resources. Now, I will not try to fool you by telling you that I'm a great fisherman. In fact, I'm not good at fishing at all. But, I really enjoy the stillness and anticipation and ultimately the reward of catching a keeper! It gives me the same feeling of connection and responsibility to be able to harvest wild fish that did not come from a crowded tank somewhere overseas being fed who knows what.
If you're not equipped or interested in fishing, you can try to seek out sustainably caught fish and seafood. Our ocean is so heavily over fished that your choice of where your seafood comes from really matters. Overfishing has caused a decline in the number of Salmon traveling upstream and inland Alaska. Some years, the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game had to close or strictly limit the amount of some Salmon species caught, in an effort to allow their numbers to bounce back. By being mindful about supporting sustainable fishing practices, you are acting as a conservationist.
BUY LOCAL OR HUNT:
I made the choice to become a hunter for many reasons but primarily because I do not want to support the industrialized meat industry and I want to know exactly where my meat comes from. Hunting wild animals does not require the destruction of wild habitat and it's economical. The image above shows the many meals my family will be enjoying from just one Deer. Being an ethical hunter allows me to leave a much smaller footprint on this Earth and connect to our wilderness in profound ways. That alone is worth it for me.
If hunting is not right for you, buying meat from a small local farmer can have a really great conservation effect too. Especially now that the USDA no longer has to declare which country your meat comes from (yikes) I recommend a quick google search to find local meat producers in your area. Most of these small farmers work hard and are really proud of their farms. In my experience, they are more than happy to invite you to have a look at the place to see for yourself. If an invitation is extended, take it! If you've got kids, take them along for an opportunity to see a real working farm and learn about responsible farming early. Plus, it would make for a really fun day trip!
CHICKEN AND THE EGG:
Before we moved to the country, we would purchase eggs from local farmers who kept happy healthy chickens and It made such a difference. Cattle and pigs aren't the only ones who have a rough time in factory settings. Chickens get stressed, overcrowded and sick just like other livestock.
Now that we live out in the country, my wife and I raise chickens for eggs and meat. These are hands down, the greatest tasting eggs and chickens I've ever eaten. That is due to making sure that our flock has plenty of space to forage, gets the right nutrients from food we give them and are cared for well. If you take good care of them, they'll take good care of you.
Other bonuses to having chickens are being able to use their manure as compost for our garden and they do not require us to clear wild habitat for them. It's a great way for us to keep our footprint small.
If buying eggs is the way to go for you, consider being mindful about labeling. "Free Range" or "Cage Free" may not mean ranging freely to forage on a farm. It can be used for poultry producers who have many hundreds or thousands of chickens in a crowded dirty pen inside of a warehouse. So because they are technically not in a cage and able to range from one side of the containment pen to the other, they can be labeled as "cage free" or "free range". I've been to one of these "farms" and let's just say that there is a reason the operation happens behind closed doors. It sure as heck too away my appetite.
The same mindful approach can be applied to sourcing out locally and lovingly raised chickens for your dinner table.
This post is meant to share what I do in my life personally and is not meant to cast judgement if you do things differently. One thing is for sure, it's easier than you think to make a big difference!