New Video: Hunters, Anglers, and Climate Change
March 27, 2013
The latest in my series for the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.
Todd Tanner has an offer for you. Convince him that climate change is not real, and he’ll give you his gun.
The Conservation Hawks is a new group dedicated to harnessing the power of sportsmen to address climate change. Stop. Before you give in to anger, or to the “conservation fatigue” that can fall upon us like a giant wet carpet whenever climate change is mentioned, consider this: If you can convince Conservation Hawks chairman Todd Tanner that he’s wasting his time, that he does not have to worry about climate change, he will present to you his most prized possession: A Beretta Silver Pigeon 12 gauge over/under that was a gift from his wife, and has been a faithful companion on many a Montana bird hunt. I know the gun, and I’ve hunted and fished with Todd for years. He’s not kidding. You convince him, he’ll give you the gun.
Conservation Hawks has an all-star board of directors, including my friends Bill Geer and Katie McKalip, who both work for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and have a deep understanding of the issues we face as sportsmen. I talked with Todd Tanner recently about what the Conservation Hawks hope to accomplish.
Hal Herring: First, are you serious about the Beretta?
Todd Tanner: I am serious. If somebody can convince me that I don’t have to worry about climate change, I’ll give it them. Or I’ll auction it off and donate the proceeds to the charity of their choice. But it will have to be a real argument, with real facts. I don’t think that argument exists, but I’m willing to be surprised.
HH: Why the Conservation Hawks?
TT: Let’s say you are walking down a trail in the wilderness with your wife and kids, and you come upon a grizzly sow, standing on a carcass. She charges, flat out. You’re in front of your family. What do you do? Just give up? Pretend it’s not happening? Let her maul you and everything your care about? Of course you don’t. You take action. That is how I see climate change. It’s real, it’s threatening everything we love. Not taking action is not an option.
HH: Why now?
TT: This is the point where we can still stand up and have an effect. Maybe it’s the last point. I want that freedom we’ve enjoyed to fish and hunt to continue. Maybe most important, I have a son. I cannot be complicit in surrendering all this that I’ve had and loved for my whole life—just say, sorry, I gave up and let it be taken from him. When I knew the science, and the facts.
HH: What percentage of sportsmen do you think really care anything about this issue?
TT: I’d say maybe 50 percent. But that’s a tricky question. Bill Geer spent a lot of time giving presentations about the effects of climate change to sportsmen’s groups around Montana. He was in Eureka, talking to a group of guys that really didn’t believe the conventional take on climate change. Bill just said, “No problem, what I’m more interested in anyway is what changes have you guys witnessed, firsthand, in your lifetimes.” Well, that set off the conversation, then. Everybody had a story about that. And everybody I know does, too. Because these days, it’s fishermen and hunters who are the ones who notice these things. It used to be that so many more people were outdoors, nowadays it is just us. And it seems like we should be the ones to take the lead on this. We have the most at stake.
HH: What about those sportsmen who will say that this is just not a problem, or not a problem that we can do anything about?
I had several lengthy conversations with Todd about the hunting and angling community’s reaction to climate change. First of all, the idea that the sporting community does not get climate change is flat out wrong. This group includes some of the world’s keenest and most observant naturalists, as Field and Stream columnist Bob Marshall recently pointed out to me. Marshall has been observing rapid changes due to environmental pressure and sea level rise on his beloved Mississippi delta marsh lands for decades, and that, plus the science, has made him outspoken on the issue – for which he regularly draws the wrath of climate denying trolls for his online columns.
I interviewed these men, along with Montana outdoor writer Ken Barrett, for this video, which looks at how Americans who carry traditional knowledge of nature and its creatures view onrushing environmental changes.