This is the complete editorial published in Field & Stream’s March 1927 issue, a replica of which was presented to President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, by Editor-in-Chief Sid Evans. A copy was also sent to John Kerry.
The purpose of conservation, as I see it, is to endeavor to preserve for the future the characteristics that have made America great in the past. The men and women who built this nation have left to us many precious legacies. By far the most important of these is our national character. This character did not spring fully blown upon the nation. It came from a process of evolution and education. It was begotten of the struggle with the wilderness, the contact with out-of-doors, and all that out-of-doors means.
But a few short years separate us from the Frontier Days. Hardly a hundred years ago our country consisted of a small fringe of settlements on the Atlantic seaboard. The Oregon Trail, the Santa FÂ¿Â¿ Trail, the covered wagon, with all that they imply, were household words to our fathers and grandfathers. Now they are but memories.
To our children, Frontier Days seem as distant as William the Conqueror and his Normans. These Frontier Days built the character of America. It is our mission to see that those after us have the same opportunities to develop character and stamina that our ancestors and we have had.
We are a prodigal and thoughtless nation. We are comparatively young. We have great natural resources. Our tendency has been to treat these natural resources as inexhaustible. We have behaved as if we had Fortunatus’ purse, which no amount of extravagance could ever empty.
We have let our forests be felled. We have alienated our oil lands. We have slaughtered our game. We have neglected to preserve for the people of the United States their birthright in our national resources. Time and again we have realized too late our short-sightedness and struggled at great expense to retrieve for the people a part of what they should have had. Proverbially, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Now is the time when we must apply that ounce of prevention in so far as our game is concerned.
We are apt to treat this question of game merely from the sentimental standpoint. Some men may say, “Yes. It is nice to have quail in the country, but it is thoroughly unimportant.” They are wrong. Wild life has a very real function in America. Hundreds and thousands of our men and boys and many of the women and girls hunt or fish during the year. Such trips give them healthful recreation, build them up physically for the struggle with life. That is not all, however. By life in the open, hunting and fishing, they are built up spiritually as well as physically.
As I recall it, Dame Juliana of Berners, in the first English treatise on fishing, written some five hundred years ago, remarks that “fysshinge is good for the soule as well as the body.” By the same token, hunting is good for the soul as well as the body.
Let us look at this matter for a moment from the standpoint of the boys. After all, the boys and girls of the country are the greatest asset the country has. What do the boys get out of hunting and fishing?
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The normal answer is “A good time.” That is correct. They get a good time, but that is not all. Every normal little boy, or man, for that matter, has an aching void within him which must be filled with something interesting and exciting. If you do not provide him in his holidays with something interesting and exciting and beneficial, he will find for himself something interesting and exciting and not beneficial.
[NEXT “Continued…”] When the boy gets into the wilds, he learns much. For example, courage. The boy who fishes or shoots learns to bear physical discomforts with a smile. He ceases to be soft. Again, he learns independence. In the wilds, he has to think and act for himself.