Sportsmen & women: An untapped force for climate protection
By Flannery Winchester
Think about your favorite hobby. When you clock out of work, do you head to a book club meeting, or a new restaurant, or to the theater for opening night of a new show? Maybe you ride bikes, or build things, or knit. Now imagine what you would do if that hobby—that passion—were under threat for some reason. Surely, you would want to spring into action! Eliminate the threat, save the thing you love!
That’s exactly what’s facing the world’s hunters and anglers. Their passion is at risk from climate change. If you’re part of this group, you should know that you’re uniquely positioned to raise your voice and protect what you love: the natural world.
Close to the issue
Todd Tanner, a lifelong sportsman and now president of Conservation Hawks, said, “Climate change is the single largest threat to the natural world and to our hunting and fishing. If it isn’t already happening where you live, climate change will impact your favorite species—and hurt the places you hunt and fish—in the not-too-distant future.”
He lists challenges like shifting precipitation patterns and warmer waters. “Colder waters hold more dissolved oxygen than warmer waters,” Tanner explained. “We’re seeing our waters warm up all over the country, which lowers dissolved oxygen levels and puts extra stress on our fish populations.” And in general, as temperatures rise and conditions change, “This shift will place a huge amount of stress on native fish and game populations.”
Many hunters and anglers have already noticed these differences happening. “One thing fishing has taught me is to be more observant. And the fact is, it’s changing,” said Perk Perkins in the short film “Convergence,” which you can watch below.
“It used to always be that you could just expect that we’d have a big runoff, but now it’s so unpredictable,” said fly fishing guide Hilary Hutcheson, who was also featured in the film. “How many years in a row do we continue to say ‘It’s gonna be a tough snow year’? You know, the rain can’t sustain your water for the entire summer, so more rivers get shut down during the summer because they’re too hot for fish to thrive. And now, consistently, we’re getting so much algae floating in the water, and that’s taking up a lot of the oxygen in the water, and it’s not great for fish.”
“It’s actual proof,” Hutcheson continued. “it’s things you can see.”
Huge potential power
Those firsthand observations, paired with the tendency of this group to fall on the conservative side of the political spectrum, gives them a lot of potential to sway their elected representatives on this issue. There are more than 37 million hunters and anglers in the U.S. “If they ever decide to speak with one voice on climate, it will have an incredible impact on the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.,” Tanner said.
“If sportsmen start calling their Senators and representatives and telling them to pass strong climate and energy legislation, it would put a huge amount of pressure on Congress,” he continued. “We need legislation that reduces our CO2 emissions, and that’s not likely to happen unless Republicans and Democrats decide to work together.”
Tanner’s organization, Conservation Hawks, encourages hunters and anglers to take action by calling and emailing their representatives. Tanner himself said, “I work on climate because I feel it’s a moral calling. I want to do everything possible to share a healthy environment and a robust, sustainable economy with my 12-year-old son, and with future generations of Americans.” If you’re part of this outdoor sporting community, join him. Your voice, and the voice of your fellow sportsmen and women, has incredible power to protect what you love.