For many, hunting is a valued way of life. Whether you are a hunter, naturalist, conservationist, or just a lover of nature, we all have the same common interest: protecting our wildlife and natural regions for future generations. This is why wildlife conservation organizations are so important to all of us. No matter your motivation for enjoying the outdoors, sustaining and supporting our outdoor resources is in everyone's best interest.
Here's a look at some of the top organizations (in no particular order) working to sustain our wildlife and natural lands, both here in the US and around the globe.
Wildlife Conservation Organizations
This grassroots, volunteer-based organization began in the dust bowl era of 1937 in response to plunging waterfowl populations due to the drought. Since then, they have grown into one of the largest and most effective protectors of wetlands and the wildlife these areas support, with 83% of expenditures going to waterfowl and wetlands conservation and education.
When the NWTF was founded in 1973, North American wild turkey populations had dwindled to a mere 1.3 million birds. Today, and thanks to NWTF's team of volunteers, committed partners and professional staff, wild turkey numbers have recovered to an all-time high of nearly 7 million. This preservation of North America's hunting heritage comes through the investment of $488 million which has helped to improve over 17 million acres of natural habitat. The NWTF has accomplished this through memberships, donations, and educational programs such as the "Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt" initiative, and is committed to generating another $1.2 billion over the next decade to continue to meet or exceed their goals.
In 1984, four hunters from Montana founded the RMEF in order to "ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage." Now with over 500 chapters across the country, the RMEF successfully protects vital elk habitats through land acquisitions and donations, access and conservation easements, and other tactics. The RMEF also funds various population restoration projects to "reestablish elk herds in historic ranges where the habitat and human cultural tolerance create a high potential for self-sustaining herds."
After officially forming in 1977 to fight an anti-trapping ballot issue in Ohio, the Sportsmen's Alliance went national in 1978 to become "the number one defender of sportsmen across the country." For the past 40 years, the Alliance has been one of the primary political advocates for hunting and conservation in the US, even creating the Sportsmen's Legal Defense Fund, "the only entity with the sole purpose of defending sportsmen’s rights in the courts." The Sportsmen's Alliance has implemented several successful programs to introduce new hunters (including women and children) to the practice, including the Families Afield program and the Trailblazer Adventure Program.
Whitetails Unlimited was founded in 1982 as a non-profit conservation organization focused on "the betterment of the white-tailed deer and its environment." Similar to the RMEF, Whitetails Unlimited supports the conservation of deer in three ways: through habitat acquisition and improvement, education, and the "preservation of the hunting tradition and shooting sports for future generations." With the help of its more than 107,000 members, WU has raised and spent over $85 million on initiatives to directly improve the habitat and conserve the populations of whitetail deer in this country.
Headquartered in Bismarck, ND and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Delta Waterfowl is – in their own words – “ a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and secure the future of waterfowling in North America.” The organization does this in four ways: by increasing waterfowl numbers through its duck production programs; conserving duck habitat through policy changes and incentive-based programs; defending hunting rights and access on a local and state level; and by recruiting and retaining hunters with its First Hunt program, “the largest waterfowl-specific hunter recruitment program in the world.”
While hunters and environmentalists may seem to be at odds, both share the same common interests: To preserve the great outdoors and wildlife for everyone to enjoy.
Thanks to the wildlife conservation organizations mentioned here along with many others, we are all able to better experience a world of healthy ecosystems, abundant wildlife and other natural resources.