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Rambling along the trapline
By Mel Liston*

The Company Line

Well now, you probably think I am going to tell a story here about the Hudson Bay Company, or perhaps working for John Jacob Astor as one of his hired trappers. That sure would be fun and laced with lots of history, but the history that I want to talk about today is that which we are making right now going forward. The heritage of trapping and the fur industry in North America has been written about a significant number of times and highlighted in a multitude of movies, however the general public still does not understand the significance it played in the development, exploration and settlement of this country. It is in the shadow of this reality that few modern people understand the significance of trapping in the past and so it is not surprising that they do not understand the importance of trapping in the present, which causes concern as to whether they will appreciate its relevance and it's necessity in the future.

I am now addressing an audience of outdoor sports folk who should in most instances understand and appreciate the significance of each other's sport or activity. Regrettably that is not always the case, the misunderstanding or the lack of appreciation for each other's significance allows those in opposition to our activities to capitalize on the cracks in our collective resolve. No matter what your outdoor interest might be, you are most likely purchasing items to enhance that activity. Your purchases provide federal taxes with a portion of that revenue returning to the various state and federal agencies for the advancement of wildlife science, habitat maintenance, purchase, or improvement, and enforcement.

If fishermen stop fishing and purchasing all the items necessary for that endeavor, in a relatively short time there would not be enough revenue through taxation and license purchases to continue the various efforts in the advancement of our marine habitats and fisheries science. Should the ever-increasing land posting of private property so discourage hunters that they no longer purchase licenses and equipment, the loss of revenue collected through taxation would drastically reduce funds available for the advancement of wildlife science, the purchase and protection of habitat, and the management of our natural treasure. It is this natural treasure which is our heritage and for which we remain the stewards.

Without the continued harvest of the annual overabundance of the various game species, populations would rapidly grow to the point of habitat destruction. The carrying capacity of the available habitat would be depleted not only for an individual species but also for many others. Ultimately, species such as deer would overpopulate until they died off due to starvation or disease. Prior to this inevitable and tragic die off in the population there would be significant destruction to habitat, destruction of private property, and a significant increase of fatal automobile accidents. For these reasons and many others which are known and accepted amongst our peer groups, it goes without saying, that deer hunting is a necessary aspect in the management of a healthy herd. Regulated hunting, trapping, or fishing of all game species that are thriving under our stewardship is necessary for their management. Those species which are not doing so well do to a loss of specialized habitat or the ever-increasing encroachment of urban sprawl, are receiving special attention and extra protection from the resources we provide. Trapping falls into the same vain, in that trappers harvest the annual overabundance of the furbearer species and without trapping wildlife biologists would not be able to properly manage the species.

The numbers and types of game animals that interact with each other in the habitat can enhance each other's environment or destroy it depending upon the balance or imbalance that exists. When any wild animal is present in the wrong location or in such numbers as to cause problems for human activity, some percentage of the human population starts to look at them as vermin. Those of us who harvest these various wild species via fishing, hunting or trapping do not consider these animals as vermin. Those of us who participate in the stewardship of our wild heritage by harvesting the annual overabundance for consumption of a renewable resource, make the whole system of management possible. Those who hunt, trap and fish value wildlife for their recreational, biological, scientific, educational, commercial, and esthetic value. Hunters, trappers, and fishermen need make no excuse for their activity. We must collectively present to the general public the rationale for our activity to insure continued long-term support. We must be ever mindful to the fact that the aspects which all sports folk have in common, the very essence for approval from society of the endeavors we pursue are grounded in the necessity of our activity as the most viable and effective means to accomplish the annual wildlife population reductions required to keep the habitat healthy and the system in balance.

Back in the 1930's when Aldo Leopold wrote about conservation and game management, his definition of conservation put the protection and management of habitat at the forefront. Part of that management of habitat is to ensure that none of the wild species overpopulate to an extent as to damage the habitat for themselves or other species. Leopold went on to define game management as the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use. Leopold knew back then that a pervasive presence of humankind had signaled a change for the environment in which the natural world would function. Mankind must play its part as a steward of our natural resources. Because hunters, trappers, and fishermen so appreciate the wild species in our environment, they are willing to be taxed, licensed, and regulated for the enhancement of those species. It is further acknowledged that the harvesting and activity carried on by our segment of society is the most cost-effective mechanism utilized by modern wildlife managers to harvest the annual overabundance of a healthy wildlife population.

And so it is, that all of the various outdoor sports need to understand, acknowledge, and embrace our common relationship in effective wildlife management. More than any other collective group, we the outdoor sporting fraternity agree to be licensed, regulated, and taxed for the benefit of the wild species we love and for the habitat they require. Let us all be on the same page when we present our story to the public. Let's all be sure we know and understand "The Company Line". We are needed in this modern world to support, finance, and make possible advancements in modern wildlife science and to play our part as harvesters, thereby keeping selected species populations in balance with what science determines is healthy and in balance for the long term viability of a diverse natural habitat, environment and ecosystem.

*Mel Liston, from Strafford, New Hampshire is a freelance writer, Trapper Education Instructor, Director for the New Hampshire Trappers Association and a member of the National Trappers Association and the Fur Takers of America.

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