Author relects on conservation efforts
By Jerry Davis / Freelance outdoors writer
Jim Posewitz believes most hunters are unaware about what some hunters and conservationists did to save wildlife and wild lands in North America.
Posewitz admits that until recently he also was uninformed, so he set out to learn what saved America's wildlife.
Posewitz's third book, Rifle in Hand: How Wild America Was Saved, gives readers a crash course in what he calls the greatest conservation story in history.
"I have two degrees in fish and wildlife management and never learned these things until now," Posewitz said. "Had I known from the start, it would have changed the way I lived."
Posewitz left Wisconsin 50 years ago to study wildlife management in Montana and spent much of his career working in the ecological services division in Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
In 1993, Posewitz left the state agency and formed "Orion: The Hunter's Institute," to work on two themes developed at the first Governor's Symposium on North American Hunting Heritage.
That first symposium, held in Montana in 1992, concluded hunters need to clean up their act and also that hunting heritage needed to be taught to the hunting community.
What are these stories Posewitz believes should be re-told and why are they so important?
"The tendency to behave badly as a hunter is greatly diminished when we take to the field knowing we are part of something so magnificent," he said. "The history shows us we are connected to Theodore Roosevelt and other conservation giants such as Wisconsin's Aldo Leopold."
Posewitz believes the work of great conservationists tells the truth about efforts of hunters to save wildlife and preserving our hunting heritage.
One example is that hunters working through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raised millions of dollars to purchase winter range so elk would not starve. At the same time, money that anti-hunting groups raised for that purpose disappeared. This is an example of vilified hunters doing their thing for wildlife, he said.
Posewitz has returned to Wisconsin a number of times since leaving Sheboygan 50 years ago. In 2001, he spoke at an ethics symposium at Viterbo University in La Crosse. This summer he spoke at 125th anniversary celebration of Wisconsin's conservation wardens in Stevens Point. Each time he visits Wisconsin, and other states, he conveys the idea that our hunting heritage should be taught in hunter education courses, in American history courses and told to experienced hunters.
"Your values change as you mature", he said. "There is excitement of being a young hunter, but 10-15 years later, hunters come back with a lot of experience in the field and it's time to be more contemplative and reflective."
One point of reflection should be that a series of court decisions, some dating back to 1842, have recognized that natural resources, such as deer, are not private property. The resources, including deer, turkeys, grouse, fish and other animals, belong to all the people, who are the trustees.
How might the people's wildlife, when it lives on private property, be hunted? Does this mean hunters can simply hunt where they wish? Of course not.
"First, we have to respect landowner's rights," Posewitz said. "Then we need to have something like a master hunter, who knows hunting heritage, asking permission. This should give the assurance to the landowner that this hunter is trustworthy, well-trained, reliable and worthy of being considered for access to the land."
Posewitz also reminds us that this is the centennial of Theodore Roosevelt being elected president of U.S.
"He set aside 230 million acres of land so wildlife could start to recover. That's 9.9 percent of America or 84,403 acres a day for every day TR was president," Posewitz said, who also has his own thoughts about chronic wasting disease and hunters being asked to kill deer in the CWD management areas.
"This was a management purpose, not just killing deer," he said. "Wisconsin has tried to get deer populations down so disease would not be a factor. The tragedy is that politicians did not support the DNR's methods to control CWD."
Posewitz says Wisconsin has not been able to manage its deer herd.
"One has to recognize this in perspective of time," he said. "Managers are developing ways to reduce the herd and this has been a major paradigm shift from few deer to this marvelous abundance." Posweitz also says that game farms are a tragedy.
"Montana banned captive shooting by a ballot initiative brought by hunters. This was a very important thing for us to have done," he said.
Posewitz has been in 40 states, given 70 seminars, many for hunter education instructors, on why and how to teach hunter ethics.
His first book, Beyond Fair Chase, has sold one-half million copies.
For more information about Posewitz's books and seminars, call him at (406) 449-2795.
Story originally printed in the La Crosse Tribune or online at http://www.lacrossetribune.com
All stories copyright 2000 - 2005 La Crosse Tribune and other attributed sources.