Roosevelt had right idea for conservation

By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor

I don’t think I ever really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe I still don’t know. Or maybe I haven’t grown up.

I remember wanting to be a professional baseball player at one point when I was little. I recall wanting to be a farmer and raise pigs. I don’t ever remember wanting to be a fireman, policeman or astronaut as most youngsters of my generation, though.

As I got into junior high and high school the Vietnam War was on television every night, and I knew I didn’t want to be a soldier.

Through high school I never really figured out a career path, so I wound up meeting with my college advisor with no real solid plan in mind. I told that person that I wanted to be a wildlife biologist and also utilize the journalism skills that came pretty easily to me. They looked at me like I was crazy and loaded me up on the basics for a science degree.

After several semesters, I was still adrift and at one point switched the major to geology, reasoning there was bigger money there. Alas, it seemed they wanted a chemistry background for either biology or geology. Eventually I just drifted into journalism without the degree.
Amazingly enough, that dream I had as I started college has been realized, sort of, from the opposite direction.

Twice this week I’ve been able, as managing editor, to put myself in the middle of wildlife related stories. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to do that fairly often.

Last year I was able to cover the High Plains Prairie Chicken Festival for the first time. While the idea of getting up at 4 a.m. to watch birds flap around in the predawn spring chill doesn’t appeal to most (or any) of my staff, for me it’s heaven.

I went back to the festival this year, hoping to get that exclusive interview with a prairie chicken rooster but instead settled for watching the chickens and interviewing the people like myself who get a kick out of watching the birds.

Over the years, I’ve written about walleyes at Ute Lake, quail and deer in New Mexico, redfish and geese in Texas, trout, bighorn sheep and elk in Colorado and deer, coyotes and assorted varmints and varmint chasers everywhere I’ve lived, and it never gets old.

I don’t know that any of those stories have directly helped the cause of conservation in this country, but I don’t think any of them have hurt either, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing them.

I have enjoyed hunting and fishing pretty well all my life. These days, more and more, I like to hunt with a camera and pen instead of rod, rifle or shotgun. I think there is probably nothing better we as humans can do than work for the protection of prairie chickens, mule deer, gila trout, wolves or whatever species is in danger.

I’m realistic about conservation, though. We can’t just lock the gate on a species to protect it. We need to help it find its niche in the world as it exists today. Highways, oil fields, hunting seasons, and ranchers with calves and lambs are all a part of that world.

Teddy Roosevelt had the right idea when he kick-started modern day conservation. He knew it was important for the common man to have a connection with nature and the creatures that roam the earth.

I never got that biology degree, but I embrace T.R.’s ideals because I’ve had the chance to make that connection. I also consider myself fortunate to be able to write about it.

Karl Terry is managing editor at the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481, ext. 33 or e-mail:
karl_terry@link.freedom.com