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June 30, 2010

Will the original conservationist please stand up

So, the Wall Street Journal informs readers this week that fishermen are "the original conservationists."

On a TV commercial airing in Albuquerque, viwers are being told that dairy farmers are "the original conservationists."

And members of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Foundation frequently remind state lawmakers meeting in Annapolis that hunters are "the original conservationists."

If all these folks are out there conserving, why are things in the outdoors so screwed up?
Who really is deserving of the title?

It is a nifty label, especially if you fit into one of the above-mentioned groups or any others that I've no doubt missed.

Googling "original conservationist" gets lots of results, from a website devoted to Ronald Reagan to news stories about Inuit whalers in Alaska to a Sierra Club promotion used to troll for new members.

In each case, of course, folks only morphed into "original conservationists" after they came within an inch of killing and consuming every last critter of a certain type or wiping a species off the face of the Earth or destroying critical habitat in the name of progress.

In the big picture, bison, cranes and cod have at one time or another fallen victim to the cold, dead hand of an "original conservationist."

Closer to home, striped bass, blue crabs and oysters have been similarly embraced.

Who would get your vote for being the original conservationist? Is it a single individual, say Teddy Roosevelt or John Muir? Or a group, such as the Nature Conservancy?

Let me know what you think.

Posted by Candus Thomson at 8:30 AM |
About Candus Thomson
In a world of paper vs. plastic and candy mint vs. breath mint, my early memories involved a debate about the merits of freshwater vs. saltwater.

On the one hand, a great uncle’s fishing cabin on the Susquehanna River beckoned, but so did family gatherings on the Jersey Shore.

The correct answer, thankfully, was, “both.”

As The Sun’s outdoors writer for more than a decade, I’ve fished across Maryland in one day, hiked the width of the state in one hour, camped overnight in the median of I-95 to experience the wildlife between the fast lanes and chased mountain bikers in a 24-hour marathon race.

Those are some of the highlights. I’ve also fallen in a raging Gunpowder River during a trout survey (photo available upon request), had a shark spill its guts on my clothes and been stuck in a sub-freezing Vermont wilderness with men armed with flintlocks and hatchets, shuffling along on ancient wooden snowshoes.

And, in my travels I’ve met lots of you, who share a love of the outdoors and the good times and mishaps that go along with it.

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