Monday, September 12, 2011

Within the Womb of Time

By Jim Posewitz:

Tracking a deer or an elk across a snowy Montana landscape will on occasion result in meat in the freezer and at times antlers saved as reminders of the day. There may be times however when the serious and curious hunter may elect to follow the track in reverse. That person seeks to learn the secrets held by the trail seldom followed. It is the track that will reveal where the undisturbed animal fed, where it felt secure enough to bed, and how it chose to move through difficult terrain. Likewise, American hunters also have a backtrack, a trail through time that produced the wild things and places that now fill our lives. It was a trail that passed through some very hard times for wildlife, but ultimately led to one of the truly great conservation achievements of any civilization – ever. Finding that track is certain to not only enrich our current hunting experiences, but it will also stimulate us to embrace the conservation ethic of the hunters who delivered it to our time. The ultimate trophy would be adding your new and personal story to enrich the conservation legacy of the hunt. This computerized internet format for story telling and idea sharing is nothing more than stretching the circle of hunters that can gather around the fire.

When the first European explorers and hunters slipped into Montana in 1805 they found a wildlife resource that, “…for variety and abundance exceeded anything the eye of man had ever looked upon.” In eight short decades that abundance was reduced to a bone-yard. Writing in Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and Wilderness Hunter, Theodore Roosevelt, penned the following passage, “A ranchman who at the same time had made a journey of a thousand miles across Northern Montana, along the Milk River, told me that, to use his own expression, during the whole distance he was never out of sight of a dead buffalo, and never in sight of a live one.” The conservation ethic born in response to wildlife’s commercial slaughter in the late 19th century, has produced a wonderful new abundance. It occurred because wildlife in America is owned by no one and managed as a public trust for the benefit of everyone. The struggle was and is constant and through the years it has spawned a culture of conservation advocates among the hunters and anglers of America.

When early conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, and Gifford Pinchot battled for wildlife restoration, wild land protection, and forest conservation, they always included reference to future generations. The words used included “….for all Americans … including those still within the womb of time.” Well, we have emerged for that womb of time still carrying the conservation ethic born of those worst of times once endured by America’s wildlife. We have also savored the wildlife, fisheries, wild places, and open spaces those conservation pioneers embedded on our landscape. It is now our turn, our time in the sun, to pass this exceptional Montana conservation legacy forward to those still within the womb of time.

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