Springtime is finally upon us and it is time to head outdoors to enjoy the warm sunshine and the beauty of nature. I decided to ask 2 experts who spend their lives in the great outdoors about how they celebrate spring and the outdoors, and about what conservation means to them.
Cheryl Todd: Kristy, you are a true outdoorsperson. You have a deep understanding of conservation and the importance of passing along those values to the next generation. Where did this love of nature originate from?
Kristy: My love of the outdoors started from the time I was a small child. My family would pack our mules into the backcountry, enjoying camping and fishing together as a family. Today, the culture of our population is ever changing and many find that they are easily caught up in a busy urban-based life and lose touch with wild places.
It is up to us to teach the next generation how hunting is conservation. Hunters are the first crusaders in conservation. The sale of state hunting licenses and fees generate 75% of the annual income for state conservation agencies. The taxation of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, through the Pittman Robertson Act, generates $371 million dollars each year for conservation. Hunters are truly leading the way in conservation. Grassroots efforts like those found with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) have conserved or enhanced over 7 million acres and have additionally opened or improved access to over 1 million acres providing the opportunity for families to recreate and enjoy wild places.
Cheryl Todd: Judy, you have raised your children to love nature with a special annual tradition. Can you tell us about that?
Judy: Every year in April my children and I would plant trees for Arbor Day! Living in the arid climate of Dallas, Texas, and having previously been in the real estate and interior design business, I understood the value of trees from several perspectives. Planting trees around our farm changed the atmosphere and even the temperature of our acreage. Trees bring shade, offer a refuge for wildlife, and even clean the air we breathe though oxygen exchange. In Dallas, an oak tree planted in your yard may increase the sellable value of that home by $10,000.
I also understood the beauty and symbolism of creating strong roots for children, by showing them how to make strong roots in trees. It takes time, patience, and sweat equity – this is what builds character and instills a powerful work ethic in our kids. They are able to watch year after year, through the storms of life, that the tree not only grows, but thrives in any season, whether in the warmth of spring or in the frigid winter.
Cheryl Todd: Kristy, how can we be proactive in becoming involved in conservationism?
Kristy: On the ground volunteerism in groups like RMEF is always needed. Our volunteers work tirelessly to remove old fencing for wildlife, improve water sources for wildlife, take part in prescribed burns for habitat and more. We would love to have your readers become part of our efforts! For your Spring or Summer Service Project and to get yourself, your family, or organization involved please visit RMEF.
Cheryl Todd: Judy, you are deeply invested in the legacy aspects of preserving nature. Through your efforts with DIVA WOW you have encouraged and mentored more than 4,000 women and youth in hunting and the shooting sports during the past 2 decades. But, you are also a home gardener, and know a thing or two about harvesting off the land in other ways. Can you expound on that?
Judy: I believe that backyard planter gardens bring nature closer to your table. We spend too much time buying prepackaged foods that were harvested weeks before we serve them to our families. I like to grow my own fruits and vegetables, which are minutes from garden to table, rich in vitamins and nutrients, and taste better than anything that has been sitting under the fluorescent lights of a grocery store. Plus, there is a little trick that I teach my Divas about harvesting right out of nature. While you are out hunting game, look also for morel mushrooms. These small mushrooms are a delicacy and they appear at just the right time to signal us that it is turkey season! So, hunting for these distinctively shaped mushrooms (their tops resemble ocean coral) is something else to do while hunting turkeys, and make a great side dish when you sauté them with butter.
Cheryl Todd: Kristy, my final question is for you, and is like the one I just asked Judy. It seems that each new generation moves further from harvesting our own food and feeling a true connection to nature. We become more and more urban-bound, seeking the creature comforts of convenience. How can we as outdoorswomen help our future generations to connect with nature?
Kristy: There is a big disconnect from the land and wildlife that calls it home. We see the dissolution of the family unit- urban city kids that have never seen the stars in the sky, let alone know the feeling of waking up at 4 a.m. for a hunt. This reconnection to the land is the key to ensure the future of our time-honored traditions and the relevancy of hunting in today’s ever changing world. Start in your own community, help to create a sense of belonging and mentor someone that you may know that needs to reconnect to wild places. Helping others not only enriches their life but it will leave our Mother Earth in a little better shape than we found her.