Donating time to conservation organizations will make you a better hunter conservationist
When I first started hunting and fishing, one of my priorities was to find others like me who enjoyed the pursuit of wildlife. As an adult-onset hunter and a recent college graduate, I didn't really know any other outdoorspeople. To broaden my network, I focused on joining local and national conservation organizations near me. I did this to make new friends and because it's a great way to put my money back towards conservation and donate my time to boots-on-the-ground efforts like fence removals, trash pickups, restoration projects, and more.
If you're a new hunter, I recommend joining a non-profit organization that is active in your neck of the woods. Not only will you make some new friends in your local communities, but you'll spend your time giving back to the natural resources and the open spaces that you recreate upon. The lands, waters, and wildlife will thank you for your stewardship.
Below is an incomplete list of national conservation organizations I found when I began hunting and fishing. They are all easy to find on social media and get in touch with. Most of them have a large annual convention, too, which gives folks the opportunity to gather from around the nation and be collaborative with fellow organization members in conservation efforts. In addition to checking out these nationwide NGOs, do some research and find nonprofits that share your values in your neck of the woods. Seeking community in the outdoors is always time well spent, especially if you're concerned about saving these wild places we know and love for future generations.
Artemis is a group of bold, impassioned sportswomen dedicated to changing the face of conservation. Artemis sportswomen do more than hunt and fish; they also do outreach work towards creating inclusive communities within the hunting space. Their presence is largely in the Rocky Mountains, but they have ambassadors located all around the country. I recommend following them on Instagram and tuning into their podcast.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
BHA is the fastest-growing conservation organization in North America. Focused on prolonging our continent's hunting heritage, most of their events and volunteer efforts are focused on conservation education, skills development, and community building. An international organization, BHA has chapters in 48 states and three Canadian provinces. Check out their website to get in touch with your local chapter, become a member, and find events happening near you.
If you love waterfowl hunting, I recommend that you join Ducks Unlimited (Or Ducks Unlimited Canada). DU's focus is on wetland and waterfowl conservation. They're also one of the oldest conservation organizations in the US; they got their start during the Dust Bowl in 1937 when drought was prevalent and healthy waterfowl populations were not. DU's mission is to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated wildlife habitats for North America's waterfowl. With over 700,000 members, they're located in all 50 states and host a variety of events and banquets.
Hunters of Color
Hunters of Color is a new nonprofit based in Corvallis, Oregon. Their mission is to cultivate equitable opportunities for People of Color to participate in the outdoors through conservation and hunting. HOC just launched their ambassador program where each ambassador serves as a leader for the state they reside in. HOC ambassadors coordinate events, pair hunting mentors with mentees, and educate the public on both conservation and racial equity issues. You can donate to them, view upcoming events, and get more involved via their website.
As you might have guessed, Pheasants Forever is the nonprofit of choice when it comes to bird hunters. If you hunt pheasant, quail, chukar, or other upland birds, PF's values are likely aligned with yours. PF is dedicated to conserving habitat for pheasants including grasslands, savannahs, and stream corridors. Since 1982, Pheasants Forever has been conserving pheasants, quail, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public access, education, and conservation advocacy. They're also huge supporters of public lands, which we need more of since most hunters cite a lack of land access as one of their biggest hurdles in hunting.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
RMEF is a big game conservation organization that focuses on elk and their habitat. Their mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, habitat, and our hunting heritage. Based in the west but with members located nationwide, RMEF is a large organization with events located across the nation. Members also receive their popular quarterly publication, Bugle. Personally, my favorite thing about RMEF is that they put their money where their mouth is. They truly give back via large-scale land conservation and restoration projects.
For the trout chasers out there, you should check out Trout Unlimited. Founded in Michigan in 1959, TU is dedicated to engaging in the work of restoring the natural habitats of rivers, streams and other waters. Today, they're a nationwide nonprofit with over 300,000 members. You can find local events, chapters, and volunteer opportunities on their website.
Wild Salmon Center
If you spend time angling for steelhead, salmon, or just support dam removal for the sake of water quality and fish conservation, get acquainted with the Wild Salmon Center. Based in the Pacific Northwest, their main focus is preemptively protecting North America and Russia's salmon strongholds. WSC's definition of a stronghold is a watershed(s) where salmon populations are currently strong and the habitat is intact. By protecting these spaces, WSC believes that we can save the last remaining healthy salmon populations and conserve their genetic diversity, biological productivity, and high-quality habitat.
National Wild Turkey Federation
Since its foundation in 1973, NWTF has put $488 million into wildlife conservation, improved more than 17 million acres of wild turkey habitat, and introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the outdoors. Today, they still mainly focus on habitat protection. Additionally, NWTF funnels effort into the recruitment of new hunters to help protect our hunting heritage. They also continually promote the funding of conservation through hunters via excise taxes on firearms and ammunition. This national organization has a presence in every state and tons of volunteer opportunities.
Keep in mind this is just a handful of the conservation organizations out there. Most popular game species have their own organization, such as the Mule Deer Foundation, Quail Forever, and Whitetails Unlimited. Start looking up your favorite species and which organizations are contributing to its conservation. Finding like-minded folks won't only make you feel more included; you'll be a better hunter and conservationist because of it, too.
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