By Mark Kenyon

If you paid any attention to the news last week, you likely heard about the environmental debate raging around a new proposal put forth by the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly curtail carbon pollution over the next 15 years. The proposal is being heralded by many as one of the most positive and significant steps towards combating climate change and environmental damage that the president has made to date. Of course, on the other hand, many are ridiculing the proposal as well.

Born and raised a moderate conservative in the bible belt of the Midwest, I’m used to rolling my eyes at environmental news like this and attributing the hubbub to overzealous hippies and granola crunching crazies.

Lately though, I’ve come to realize that maybe I’ve been the crazy one. Blinded by ignorance, I’ve been turning up my nose to the environmentalist movement for years, while they’ve fought many of the battles to protect and preserve the wilderness and wildlife I cherish so much.

But no more. I’m a hunter, I’m a conservationist, and I’m officially “going green.” And if you’re a fellow hunter, I think maybe you should too.

(Make sure you make it all the way to the end of this piece, because I’ve got an exciting little announcement to share!)

Is “Going Green” That Crazy?

I absolutely love the outdoors. There is nothing more important to my way of life than nature, wildlife and wilderness. It’s who I am, it’s what I live for. For some reason, maybe youth or blissful ignorance, in past years I viewed nature as a resource to enjoy and consume, without putting any thought into how I could give back or the obligation I had to protect this gift for future generations. Even more confusing, I ridiculed and looked down on those who were actually making an effort to protect the environment that I loved so much.

Growing up, I always viewed the environmentalist crowd or “greenies” as extremists, idealists and a little bit crazy. If someone was trying to practice a more environmentally friendly or “green” lifestyle, I might roll my eyes and chuckle. And sure, there are some extremists in that crowd – but the same can be said for some in our hunting and gun-owning fraternity. But other than those on the extreme fringe, is “going green” really that extreme? According to USA.gov, “Going Green” means practicing an environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible lifestyle as well as making decisions to help protect the environment and sustain natural resources.”

I have a hard time finding anything extreme or crazy with that. In fact, the only thing I can find crazy now is that I haven’t been making a greater effort to practice this lifestyle more myself.

Protecting What We Love

If you’re on this site, it most likely means you are an avid and quite possibly addicted whitetail hunter. You live and breathe deer hunting and you most likely have an appreciation and love of nature unmatched by most.

As hunters, we spend a significantly greater amount of time in nature than the average American. But in addition to the larger quantity of time in the wild, I’d also say we have higher quality experiences in nature as well. More than just passing through or observing, we actively study and participate in nature. We understand animals and ecosystems in ways that almost no non-hunter could ever comprehend. And as a product of this unique connection, most of us cherish nature and wildlife that much more.

That said, how would you feel if the wild places you hunt, hike or fish were to disappear? Or what if the whitetails you obsess over began to die off en mass? Or what if you began losing access to massive tracts of land to hunt or explore because of new developments?

It would be devastating.

If we love these animals, these wild places, and this natural world, why aren’t we doing more to protect it?

When I try to answer that question, I’m left speechless. There’s no answer I can give to explain why I’ve spent 26 years taking from nature, and so few giving back.

We’re Being Shown Up

With that said, I know by default we hunters help conservation efforts by virtue of excise taxes and license fees. And this great. I’m thrilled that my money goes to support these efforts.  But I also feel that often times we fall back on this as an excuse, claiming we already do more than most,  given these monetary contributions or “skims” off the top. There’s some truth to this, but is that really enough?

Given our unique and enhanced relationship we have with nature, I think we can do more. I think it’s time we took it upon ourselves to take real action to help protect the wildlife and wild places we use and love. It’s time to invest not just our money, but our time, our energy and our voices.

There’s so much more we can do, but if we’re a bit confused about where to start – we’ve got some pretty solid role models to take a look at on the other side of the aisle.

No matter what your political or idealogical standpoint is, you can’t deny that there are some in the “green” or environmental movement that are doing big things for nature. Whether it be through grassroots efforts to protect a wild place, by writing legislators, or simply by religiously recycling at home or bike commuting to work – these guys and gals are making things happen. Despite not having nearly the kind of connection that we hunters often have with nature, these folks are getting serious about protecting it. Shouldn’t we be to? 

Taking The First Steps To “Going Green”

These questions I’ve posed here are mostly directed right at myself. I’ve personally been struggling with this issue and this topic for awhile and I’ve finally come to the realization that I just need to step up. And maybe, if you feel a bit like I do, you’ll want to do the same. If that’s the case, I think a few simple steps can help move us in the right direction.

First, I think it’s important that we try to learn as much as possible. For a long time I wasn’t interested in learning more about “eco-friendly” this or “green” that, or recycling, carbon emissions, environmentalism, etc, etc. Now though, as I approach these topics with a more open mind, I realize there is a lot to learn. I’m diving into new books, magazines and websites and have been fascinated with what I’ve found. I’d encourage you to be open to learning more about these ideas as well.

Secondly, I’ve been trying to get more involved with organizations that are working towards the protection and conservation of the environment. One new thing I’ve done recently is join a non-hunting related conservation/environmental group, in an effort to better understand what they are doing to work on larger environmental issues outside of the purely hunting related facets of conservation. You too might want to check out organizations outside of the typical hunting/conservation sphere as well, but be sure to look into the stance that these non-hunting focused environmental/conservation groups take on hunting. Some aren’t supportive, and of course, in that case you and I probably don’t want to be involved. That said, I still think there is much that can be learned from these non-hunting focused groups and some careful exploration and an open mind, in my opinion, is a decent idea.  Of course I’m also getting more involved with hunting organizations that have a conservation focus as well, such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Third, put in some time and energy to making a difference. Maybe there’s a small, local project you can donate some time to. Cleaning up garbage on a riverbank, pulling down old fences on public land, planting trees on reclaimed farm land. Or on the home front, just try to be more serious about recycling in the household or minimize excess waste and consumption.If you can, find a few ways to get outside and help. I’m confident it will help heal both the earth, and your soul.

There’s plenty more we can do, but to start I’m trying to find small, actionable steps like this that I can move forward with in the short term. This is a great way to get rolling, but in the long term, the sky is the limit.

It’s Time For Hunters To Go Green

As someone living in the Midwest and primarily hunting on small pieces of private land for whitetails, it’s easy to get sucked in to thinking just about my little slice of ground. Unfortunately this view is like looking at the world through a straw. I can improve this piece of ground as much as possible for deer with food plots, bedding improvements and water sources – but if damage keeps getting done to the worldwide environment, climate and air across the country, my little slice of deer ground will start to deteriorate right along with the rest of the natural world.

As hunters, I believe it’s our responsibility to not only pursue and enjoy wildlife, but also to protect it. This calls for more than the occasional donation to a wildlife conservation organization or license fees. It’s time for me and you to step it up. We have as much skin in this game as anyone, and probably more so than most. Regardless of what political or idealogical differences you and I might have with some of the “environmentalist” types, we do have one huge thing in common. We love nature, wilderness and wildlife.

That love I have for the natural world is too strong to sit idly by any longer. I’m making the change. I’m taking the plunge. I’m swallowing my pride, shedding my old prejudices and “going green.”

Will you join me?

As I embark on this new journey of merging my love of the outdoors and hunting with a new focus on environmentalism and conservation, I’m planning on sharing my experiences and lessons learned in a new place – specifically set aside for this topic. I’m starting TheGreenHunter.org, a new blog focused on environmental and conservation issues that are relevant to outdoorsmen and women, along with my own lessons learned and experiences trying to become a more “green” hunter and human. If you’re interested in joining me on this path, with a renewed focus on protecting the wilderness we enjoy so much, I’d encourage you to check out TheGreenHunter.org!