SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- Few people spend as much time in the wilderness as hunters and anglers, and a new report aims to be a springboard to bring their conservation knowledge into discussions about fighting climate change.
The report, A Hunter's and Angler's Guide to Climate Change, touches on landscapes in Utah and throughout the country used by sportsmen and women that face environmental threats from the warming climate. Chief among them are Utah's forests and rivers.
Aaron Kindle, director of sporting advocacy at the National Wildlife Federation and the report's author, said heatwaves, droughts, and forest fires are hurting outdoor recreation in the state.
"If your elk hunt is canceled because the unit that you were going to hunt in is burning down, that's clearly an impact on the ability to hunt," Kindle remarked. "Those are the kinds of things we're seeing, that are really meaning our ability to hunt and fish is under threat."
Wildfires have destroyed more than 600,000 acres of Utah forestland so far in 2021. Wetlands, forests and floodplains, in particular, can prevent flooding and help purify water, but when those areas are destroyed, the protections are lost.
Kindle pointed out some immediate actions for hunters and anglers include taking part in reforestation efforts, and he added a big part of finding environmental solutions is to advocate for resources, on the state and federal levels.
"We are a community of storytellers," Kindle observed. "We talk about the hunt. We talk about fishing. We talk about the seasons and how they've changed. And hunters and anglers have such a crucial narrative that would help shape those pieces of legislation into a better form."
Michael Cravens, advocacy and conservation director for the Arizona Wildlife Federation, said while it is important for state and national policymakers to have scientific facts to understand climate change, hearing from people who are directly affected can be very persuasive.
"Communicate to folks. Tell your stories. Tell decision-makers what you're seeing in the field," Cravens urged. "Those first-hand experiences make this real to folks. It's not all science and data. Sometimes it's anecdotal. It's life experience. So, tell those stories."
The federal support mentioned in the report includes the REPLANT Act, which would quadruple investments in reforestation in national forests. It also suggests relaunching the Civilian Conservation Corps, a 1930s public-works program, but with a focus on addressing climate change.
Source: Utah News Connection