Residents of Canada and the United States are fortunate to have abundant wildlife populations to pursue and plenty of public lands to use and explore. That’s in part thanks to forward-thinking conservationists and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which is a set of seven principles that state wildlife agencies and outdoor industry members use to guide wildlife management and conservation decisions in Canada and the United States.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was developed in the 19th century after Americans realized that unrestricted killing of wildlife was destroying irreplaceable resources. Iconic figures like Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Aldo Leopold spoke in favor of conservation and helped create laws that protected wildlife and wild places. Those laws helped inspire and develop the seven principles described in the North American model. It’s important to know that the model has no legal powers. Instead, officials use the concepts when creating rules, laws and policies that affect fish, wildlife and their habitats. Therefore, the principles help restore and protect our natural resources.
Because the model isn’t an official document or set of rules, several organizations and entities use different language to describe the seven principles. Here’s the rundown as defined by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
- Wildlife is a public resource. In the United States, wildlife is considered a public resource, independent of the land or water where wildlife may live. Governments have a role in managing that resource on behalf of all citizens to ensure the long-term sustainability of wildlife populations.
- Markets for game are eliminated. Before wildlife protection laws were enacted, commercial operations decimated populations of many species. Making it illegal to buy and sell meat and parts of game and nongame species removed a huge threat to the survival of those species. A market in furbearers continues as a highly regulated activity, often to manage invasive wildlife.
- Allocation of wildlife by law. Wildlife is a public resource managed by government. As a result, access to wildlife for hunting is through legal mechanisms such as set hunting seasons, bag limits, license requirements, etc.
- Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose. Wildlife is a shared resource that must not be wasted. The law prohibits killing wildlife for frivolous reasons.
- Wildlife species are considered an international resource. Some species, such as migratory birds, cross national boundaries. Treaties such as the Migratory Bird Treaty and CITES recognize a shared responsibility to manage these species across national boundaries.
- Science is the proper tool for the discharge of wildlife policy. In order to manage wildlife as a shared resource fairly, objectively, and knowledgeably, decisions must be based on sound science such as annual waterfowl population surveys and the work of professional wildlife biologists.
- The democracy of hunting. In keeping with democratic principles, the government allocates access to wildlife without regard for wealth, prestige, or land ownership.
Hunter-education programs across the country teach these principles to newcomers because they help students develop good hunting morals and ethics.
These principles have saved wildlife species from extinction and helped dictate the successful conservation efforts Americans and Canadians see today. Residents in these countries have the privilege and opportunity to hunt and fish, unlike many people in foreign countries where wildlife and wild places belong to governments, corporations or individuals of a certain class or economic status.
As bowhunters, we must remember to follow hunting regulations and appreciate and respect game animals and their habitats. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world is fortunate enough to be granted these luxuries. Be a responsible, ethical bowhunter. In doing so, you’ll help preserve America’s natural resources for future generations, just like our ancestors did for us.