Conservationism versus Environmentalism

Rafter of Turkeys

To many people, conservationism and environmentalism are synonymous terms.  This writer begs to differ. 

Conservationism is a movement aiming to conserve and protect natural resources, ecology, endangered species, national monuments, and landmarks.  Historically, these efforts have been undertaken by private organizations such as The Audubon Society,  Humane Society, National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants & Quail Forever, Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, etc.  These efforts to conserve and protect the land, wildlife, rivers, and streams from degradation and destruction are primarily done through private donations from the people who enjoy the activities protected by these organizations.  The conservation efforts by these organizations provide ancillary and collateral benefits to all species of wildlife, land, water sources, and the environment.

Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology, and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and the improvement of the health of the environment. Environmentalists seek to use government power and taxpayer dollars to achieve their goals.  Examples of environmental organizations are Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, etc.  These organizations spend much of their assets lobbying governments to achieve their goals.  

Both conservationists and environmentalists lobby governments to achieve their goals, however, conservationists put their money where their mouth is and use the assets achieved from membership donations as the primary tool to achieve their goals.  For example,  Ducks Unlimited has reforested more than 178,000 acres of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) in wetland forest.  DU has recovered and restored over 15 million acres of prairie wetlands in the past 70 years.  DU owns more than 1.6 million acres of wetlands that it has leased back to State and Federal agencies to manage for wildlife conservation.  In 1989, DU lobbied for the enactment of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act which has led to the conservation of more than 30 million acres and created an average of 7,500 new jobs annually.  Every dollar spent by the federal government, on average, receives a $3 match from program partners like Ducks Unlimited. 

The results of the conservation efforts of these private organizations have had a dramatic effect on the sustainability of wildlife and the environment.  To illustrate, the following chart shows the increase in wildlife and waterfowl in the U.S.A since 1900:

  1. White Tail Deer – From 500,000 to over 32,000,000
  2. Duck/Waterfowl – From endangered to over 44,000,000
  3. Rocky Mt. Elk – From 41,000 to over 1,000,000
  4. Wild Turkeys –  From 100,000 to over 7,000,000
  5. Pronghorn Antelope – From 12,000 to over 1,100,000

Sportsmen pay federal and state excise taxes on firearms and ammunition that pays for major conservation programs.  Hunting license fees and state excise taxes on guns and ammo fund the majority of State and Federal wildlife agency budgets.  Conservation organizations partner with State and Federal wildlife agencies to fund research into wildlife biology studies to improve the habitat and biological health of wildlife herds and other species.  All these studies aid other non-game animals and birds. 

Although environmental organizations do have programs to improve the habitat of wildlife, their tactics are more confrontational and terroristic in nature.  We have seen Greenpeace attack whaling vessels and endanger the crews of the boats.  The Sierra Club uses demonstrations and sit-ins to save spotted owls and other endangered species. The environmental groups demonstrate against and harass hunters during legal hunts.  These tactics are primarily initiated to gain political and funding support for their causes among the liberal elements in our society.  The tactics do not do anything to provide better habitats or provide funds for biological studies to improve the health of wildlife. 

As President Theodore Roosevelt once said in a speech in Kansas in August 1910.  “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased,”  Ole Teddy was a hunter and sportsman who saved more over 200 million acres of land in National Parks and Forest Service lands.  He saved more acres for protection from development and for future generations than any President before or since.

This writer will take conservationists over environmentalists any day.