President's Column: Georgia Wildlife Federation

Conservation Requires a Constant Vigil: You Only Get to Lose Once!

Very often when I call one of our great GWF leaders or members or activist volunteers about an issue, they will ask, "Didn't we do this last year?" Many times I have to answer yes, we did do this last year, but this is this year and we have to do it again. This illustrates one of the most difficult problems with work for conservation and the environment. There is no limit to the number of times a bad idea may be put forth in the Georgia General Assembly.

We often see the same bad proposal time after time, year after year. This has been the case, for example, with people who want to build right down to the stream banks without leaving a natural buffer. Our trout streams in north Georgia have been under a particularly intensive attack for the past ten years. Some developers have been so determined to squeeze every lot (read every dollar) out of their land holdings that they are willing to destroy the very cold-water stream that is the drawing card bringing people to buy their mountain retreats. The sad part of the story is that we will likely fight this fight again and again. Meanwhile, a piece of Georgia's most fragile natural fabric is dying a death of a thousand cuts.

This year (and the past six years) we have seen a proposal in the General Assembly to make it legal to shoot deer over bait. Each year GWF fights this idea because it abandons the basic concept of "fair chase" for sport hunting. An idea like this one also gives the animal-rights cults an image of hunters that they can make the most of in their misguided efforts to outlaw hunting and fishing completely. Again we fight. This time we fight a few foolish, self-serving hunters and the persistent anti-hunters in our effort to deny each group another opportunity to destroy the very mechanism (sport hunting and fishing) that has been most responsible for the restoration of America's native wildlife over the past 80 years.

We see some sort of request every year in the General Assembly that the author claims will “improve our community” and “grow our economy.” Sometimes these claims are true. But many times they are not and precious natural resources are threatened without justification. Then we have to fight, and we have to win. Why? Because when acting in the interest of wildlife and our natural world, we may win these battles a hundred times, but we only get to lose the battle one time and the resources are damaged or destroyed forever.

So we fight many of our fights over and over. We must. And we must not grow tired of the fight just because it is the fight we fought last year.

Jerry McCollum, President & CEO
Georgia Wildlife Federation
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