If you’re lucky, you live in a place where the hunting and fishing opportunities are boundless, and where there are no serious threats to your sporting life. This means either you’re Ted Turner (who at last count owned about 2 million acres of land), you live in Alaska, or, like some of our politicians, you simply refuse to acknowledge reality. But if you are a typical American sportsman, you get a dose of reality every day. Suddenly there’s a strip mall on the farm where you grew up hunting rabbits, a landscape of natural-gas wells where there used to be open prairie, or some company’s garbage lining the banks of your favorite trout stream. When this happens, you can do one of two things: Get mad and shout obscenities into the wind, or do something.
The people Dave Hurteau writes about in “Heroes of Conservation” (page 68) are doing something. Specifically, they’ve helped to bring back five major rivers across the country, working tirelessly to rejuvenate fish populations and restore habitat. I’m sure none of them would ever want to be called “heroes,” but I found their stories inspiring. Take Michael Lynch, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout who, on his own time, installed water-temperature monitors in the North Fork of the Black River in Arizona’s White Mountains. It wasn’t the most pleasant of tasks, but Lynch’s work–and that of several hundred other volunteers–ultimately helped in the recovery of the region’s native Apache trout. Is this young guy a foam-at-the-mouth environmentalist filing lawsuits left and right? No, he’s a sportsman like you and me, and he’s working to conserve our fields and streams the way sportsmen have done it for more than a century: by getting his hands dirty.
With that in mind, we’re establishing the FIELD & STREAM Heroes of Conservation Awards, an annual program to recognize ordinary sportsmen like Lynch who are going to extraordinary lengths to defend fish and wildlife habitat. The problem is, there are thousands of little conservation projects going on across the country that we don’t know about. So I’m asking you to send us the names of fellow sportsmen who are doing the kind of good work that helps sustain hunting and fishing. Starting next month, we’ll be running occasional profiles to keep you up-to-date, and in an issue next year, we’ll recognize the projects that truly stand out. Go to fieldandstream.com to learn more.
And if you happen to see Michael doing some work out there on the river, shake his hand. Or better yet, pitch in.