Hunting is Conservation Part 2: The North American Wildlife Conservation Model

With last week’s blog post I covered the financial aspect that hunting contributes to conservation, so this week I figured the best follow up as part two would be The North American Wildlife Conservation Model. This model was born out of necessity, as forward thinking outdoorsmen such as Theodore Roosevelt and George Grinnell decided to advocate for the protection of wild animals and wild places. While the model is not law, it is the basis of policy ideas for numerous conservation organizations and state and federal wildlife agencies.


Theodore Roosevelt and George Grinnell, the epitomes of the hunter conservationists, had the foresight and ambition to push for protecting our hunting heritage and our wild animals and wild places.

The Model has two basic principles; fish and wildlife are for the non-commercial use of the public, and they should be managed so that they are available at optimal population levels forever. There are seven tenets to the Model that expand on these two basic principles, which are…..

1). Wildlife as public trust resources.

This means that while land can be owned by individuals, no one can claim wildlife as their own, and the wildlife is managed by the government in trust of the people.

2). Elimination of market hunting.

Market hunting led to the decline and extinction of many species. Market hunting placed profits before the well being of the resources. There was a feeling that the resources were infinite, never in danger of running out. Unfortunately we found out the hard way that wasn’t true, and banned market hunting to ensure we didn’t continue down that dangerous path.

3). Allocation of Wildlife by Law.

Instead of being treated as a market commodity, or private ownership, wildlife are allocated by law for public use. Simply put, wildlife belong to all people, and its use is managed by law to ensure all have the ability to enjoy the resource.

4). Wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose.

This tenet means that animals should only be killed for food, self defense, fur and protection of property (livestock and crops). Also, this means that it is unethical to kill any animal without exhausting every effort to recover it. Many states’ game laws require this of hunters.

5). Wildlife is an international resource.

Humans make political borders, and animals obviously don’t recognize them. This tenet means that management is an international affair. That is why it is the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, because many animals are migratory and effective management requires all countries to be in agreement.

6). Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy.

Informed management and decision making processes need to be based on science and not politics. Trained biologists help make decisions based on data, science, professional experience, rather than solely on hunting, stocking or predator management. The study of wildlife takes into account all issues, habitat, population dynamics, and national surveys of hunting.

7). Democracy of Hunting.

This tenet is based on the idea from Teddy Roosevelt that hunting and access to wild places would benefit society as a whole. The financial support that money raised by hunting allows for this access.

This model coupled with other environmental protection has brought back multitudes of wildlife from the brink of extinction. We as hunters enjoy game numbers at the level they are because of the success of this model. It has led to management of wildlife not for economic gain but rather for the good of the population, and hunting has become a successful tool in proper management.

When hunting is removed as a management tool due to public outcry, the states and federal government take on the full burden of population management. They hire out for individuals to cull a certain number of animals, which is expensive. In my opinion this is a cold and callous way to do it, and also devalues the animals, as you are using a hired gun to take the species rather than a hunter who has respect and admiration for that animal.

No one knows better than hunters the value in healthy game populations and habitat. Hunters as a whole value animals not just because we take them, but also because in their pursuit we become closer to them and nature as well.

Hunters created the North American Wildlife Conservation Model in response to their viewing of the decline of wildlife at the turn of the century. Avid outdoorsmen such as Roosevelt and Grinnell wanted to protect wildlife not only in their own time but for future generations to enjoy. Modern hunters continue to carry the torch of the model. We as hunters should carry great pride in our contribution to conservation, and should learn more about the North American Wildlife Conservation Model and how important it is to our heritage.

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