Aug. 13, 2007
By Jack Jeffery
Hunting, fishing and conservation may not seem related, but an Ohio University-Chillicothe faculty member has long theorized that hunters and anglers were the nation's first conservationists. Professor of History John Reiger was the first individual to be interviewed for "Sierra Sportsmen," a Web site the Sierra Club recently launched to reach out to hunters and anglers.
As the story notes, "Reiger literally 'wrote the book' on the history of American sportsmen and conservation." Called "American Sportsmen and the Origins of Conservation," it was originally published in 1975 and was revised in 2001.
The book points out that because of their sense of responsibility for wildlife and habitat, hunters and anglers were the first to see the decline of certain species and spurred people to be concerned. "They got fed up with finding local streams depleted and their favorite marshes occupied by market hunters with no concept of limits and no restraints," Reiger says.
According to Reiger, hunters and anglers are, by inclination, natural conservationists. "Sportsmen have a vested interest in seeing wildlife thrive. Being out in the field, they are able to see and experience wildlife trends. Hunters and anglers should all be concerned with wildlife first and the killing of game second. We share the same concerns as non-hunters, and that is the protection of wildlife habitats."
"Hunting and fishing teach a reverence for wildlife," Reiger says. "It seems a paradox, but there is a 'Code of the Sportsman' that calls on hunters and anglers to pursue game and fish in a sporting manner by giving the prey an opportunity to escape and relying on the individual's skill. It is more difficult but more rewarding."
The Sierra Club's decision to launch this new Web site shows that more people realize the potential clout of hunters and anglers as they work toward the preservation of a natural world in a healthy state, Reiger says. "The decline of wildlife habitats is most often caused by contamination and other factors that negatively impact habitats such as marshlands and ponds that are not the work of hunters.
"The Sierra Club seems to be casting a wider net to include all of those who are concerned about the environment," Reiger says. "Previously, sportsmen were left on the sideline."
Before he joined the faculty at OU-C in 1988, Reiger spent five years as executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society. He earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from Duke University, his master's degree in history from the University of Florida and his Ph.D. in history from Northwestern.
The Sierra Sportsmen story can be found online at www.sierraclub.org/sierrasportsmen/people/reiger/