Communicating the Common Good - For Hunters and Anglers

By Ambassador Todd Waldron, @waldrontodd

Wildlife management is mostly about people management” – Jack Ward Thomas, Forks in the Trail

This is one of my favorite quotes from Texas-native Jack Ward Thomas – the 13th Chief of the US Forest Service and later a Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana.

I don’t suspect that understanding people and social dynamics is the primary reason that most of us hunters and anglers get involved with conservation advocacy, but it’s an important lesson to learn if we’re going to be effective over the long haul.

Along these lines, the writer Susan G. Clark offers some interesting thoughts in her book The Policy Process – A Practical Guide for Natural Resource Professionals. As its title suggests, this particular work is meant to be a guide for natural resources professionals and managers. It offers a workable model for managing and understanding the policy process as a functioning system – within social context, decision-making frameworks and problem orientation. We can assimilate some of these concepts into our hunting and angling advocacy work.

photo credit: @easternoregonphotog 

Here are five thought-provoking quotes from the first three chapters of Clark’s book which are worth our consideration:

  1. “The interaction of every individual and organized interest in society, in other words the social process – constitutes the context of every resource problem, and neither the problems nor the decision-making processes necessary to solve them can be understood unless their context is known. In fact, no problem exists without a context.“
  2. "The ongoing interaction of people in their efforts to achieve what they value is the policy process. The two fundamental questions about natural resource policy and management are how are we going to use natural resources, and who gets to decide?"
  3. “However we relate to natural resources - use, misuse, exploitation, management and conservation are all decidedly human activities that serve varied needs for varied groups of people. “
  4. “Policy sciences ask us to see social process in functional terms – that all participants are seeking values that they perceive will leave them better off, and then do this through society’s institutions.“
  5. “Common interests are those that are widely shared within a community and demanded on behalf of the whole community – safe drinking water for instance. At a larger scale, all of humanity shares an interest in the sustainability of the environment and the future of human enterprise. Human rights – freedom, self-determination, and dignity – are all impossible without a secure natural resource base on which to build and maintain them. “

All of this certainly brings up a lot interesting debate and perhaps two take home questions for further consideration:

How do we as hunter-angler conservationists learn to craft & frame our messages, stories and policy solutions for the benefit of the common good?

If we can do this, then it’s possible to avoid being perceived as just another special interest. How can we as a community bring conservation thought leadership to the forefront within the context of broader social influences and offer solutions that solve problems and can benefit all of society? Clean water, sustainable economies, secure food supply chains, public health, clean air.

When we’re telling our stories and sharing our message with the 90% of the public that doesn’t hunt or fish, this question is worthy of our consideration.

How are hunters, anglers, conservation, public lands and wildlife relevant to the overarching needs of society – to the advancement and sustainability of human enterprise that Clark discusses in her book?

 Identifying and serving the common good offers a path to maintain our relevancy within the broader fabric of society and to keep our seat at the table in a modern world. If we can succeed in this arena, we can succeed in passing our great conservation legacy on to the next generation.


Todd Waldron is a forestry professional, Hunt To Eat Ambassador from New York's Adirondack Mountains and a life member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.