Unified voice needed for sporting future

Bill HiltsI just returned home from emceeing the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs Awards Banquet, an annual event that recognizes the people and organizations who do the work in the trenches – the grassroots of the conservation movement. This year’s slate of winners was amazing, every one deserving in their own right. There were individuals who have been on the forefront of the conservation and Second Amendment movements for a long time … lifetimes, in fact. There were others who are the next generation, youth leaders starting to make an impact. That is what we truly need if we want to influence the future.

As I looked around the room, the majority of the 140 attendees were sporting gray hair. In all, the outdoors was a passion. Second Amendment rights were a given, spoken of freely by local politicians who showed their support for the annual gathering. Conservation – the wise use of our natural resources – was understood, practiced and preached. Niagara County is blessed with the fact that there are still people who recognize the need for the Federation and what it represents. Neighboring Erie County has the same conservation ethic, sending 10 of its officers and directors to support the cause. But not everyone is as lucky.

Earlier this week, I spoke with fellow scribe Chris Kenyon of Wayne County. He was trying to re-organize the Wayne County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs in an attempt to give the local sporting community a rebirth of sorts. He was trying to tell the story of these county Federations and how they all came to unite under the umbrella of the New York State Conservation Council. Right now, Wayne County does not have a unified voice.

The model is a good one. County federations make up the state group, addressing any issue that affects our natural resources or our outdoor pastimes. Educating the grassroots sportsmen and women is what’s needed to rebuild for the future. Ask any hunter or fisherman around the state what the role of the state’s Conservation Council is and you will get a wide variety of answers. Creating awareness for NYSCC is an uphill battle, but an important one if we want to continue our fight in Albany. We need to work together to accomplish these goals and objectives.

Getting back to the Niagara County awards banquet, the recognition is but one small token of our appreciation for all the hard work. Most of the people recognized around the room were volunteers. Others were overworked and underpaid public servants. In all cases, they appreciated the pat on the back and the plaque for the wall. But before they were finished, they were quick to point out others who were just as deserving or responsible for them being at the podium. We know there are plenty of people out there deserving of recognition, but unless you take the time to nominate them, there will always be people who will fall through the cracks. Get involved with a local club and see who the leaders are.

It was 1997 when I was recognized by the New York State Conservation Council as the Professional Conservationist of the Year. I felt undeserving, knowing there were so many other people out there who should be recognized – making impacts for the benefit of the greater good. That was when I vowed to get involved on the grassroots level to help honor these worker bees behind the scenes. Thanks to the recipients of the 2012 awards program last night. You did us all proud! Check out a future story in New York Outdoor News on the 2012 awards recipients.

Categories: New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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