Protecting natural resources should be everyone's job

Protecting natural resources should be everyone's job
Protect natural resources

Department of Natural Resources—sounds like a title to a wonderful governmental agency. One that is going to assist all of us in protecting what is native and natural to our respective corners of the world.

However, upon closer examination, most state departments of natural resources are funded by hunting and fishing licenses and by a portion of a Federal tax on hunting and fishing equipment—which payment is tied to how much revenue the department takes in. So the department that appears, by its name, to be protecting natural resources, is instead condoning and, in fact, actively pursuing the obliteration of some of those natural resources—namely, animals—as a way to maintain its own existence.

Some departments stock streams and rivers to make sure there is an abundance of fish for the taking. Some create feeding stations for wildlife so that hunters will find a large number of a particular species in one place. No need for the hunter to stalk his or her prey when they are standing idly by having a noontime snack.

In the process of hunting, however, other natural resources may become fouled by off-road vehicles, trash left at camp sites, and campfires that run amok and burn acres of forest land. Not all hunters are careless and leave behind debris and destruction, but they may still leave behind carcasses, wounded animals, and definitely death.

Many departments are trying to attract young people to fishing since hunting licenses are falling off as more people realize there is no need to kill nature. With this new push for younger anglers, the pitch is often for “catch-and-release” programs. Gives the angler a sense that at least he or she is not outwardly killing fish, just having a jolly good time out on the lake with them. But catch and release is a horrific way to spend the afternoon—for the fish, that is.

In catch-and-release, a fish is hooked by a barbed object in a sensitive part of the body—the mouth. The fish is yanked out of his or her natural environment, the hook is removed possibly causing more damage to sensitive tissue, and then the fish is tossed back into his or her natural environment only to most likely bleed to death.

For a moment, place yourself in the fish’s position. Put the fish in charge: the fish hooks you in your mouth, yanks you under the water, pulls out the barb, and then tosses you back on land for you to flop around as blood pours out of your wounds. Hmm…”catch-and-release” is actually more harmful than outright killing.

One would think people in charge of “natural resources” are here to “protect and defend” those resources for today and for future generations. Instead, it would appear they are in charge of exploiting them for financial gain. Not only do animals lose when hunters and anglers intrude in their lives, but also we all lose. We lose part of our natural environment. We lose part of our humanity. Instead of creating opportunities for us to kill part of the natural world, we should be creating opportunities for us to explore it, to enjoy it, to preserve it.

Often abbreviated DNR, departments of natural resources seem to be more about death than life. DNR in the medical profession is about death also—it means do not resuscitate. Maybe we shouldn’t resuscitate DNRs—just let them code.