Bears,  Conservation,  Politics,  Waterfowl

An Open Letter to the FWC Commissioners

Commissioners,

I wanted to reach out to your prior to this week’s Commission meetings in Panama City Beach.

I wish I could be there. I tried. I pushed hard. I’ve been to the past 4-5 meetings, but, as a full-time waterfowl guide, this one was tough to pull off.

See, I have a client flying in to hunt the day of the meetings from out of state. This gentleman has harvested 42 species of waterfowl, and only needs the Florida mottled duck to complete his slam. We’ve planned the hunt since June. If everything goes according to plan, there will be a celebration in a Central Florida Swamp Tuesday morning, one man capping off a lifetime hunting achievement that could only be done here, in the Sunshine State.

But I’m not writing about ducks. Rather, I’m writing about bears.

(I’m choosing, at this point, not to dwell on the fact that a meeting about one of the most controversial topics in Florida hunting is held during hunting season at one of the most decentralized locations in the state.)

I just wanted you to know: I support FWC’s bear Management plan with hunting as a management methodology.

I get the social sciences/charismatic megafauna/Anthropomorphism side of this discussion. I even understand why there’s such outrage from a group I’d consider “misinformed” at best . . . The anti-bear hunt contingent . . .

But here’s what I wanted to say to you guys (and gal) . . . The North American Model of Conservation NEEDS you right now. Conservation in Florida NEEDS you right now.

I’m not a bear hunter. I feel like I should say that. I have zero intention of ever hunting a bear. I’m a Waterfowl junkie, and I’ll shoot a turkey or deer, but bears just aren’t on my list.

But this is about Florida, and the tone for the the future of our state.

I’m not sure if y’all realize it or not, but Florida is ground zero for conservation issues. There’s no other state that’s as reliant on our ecology yet also hellbound to exploit every make-able dollar from the same lands that house that ecosystem. This makes us a weather vane, a barometer for what’s coming in the future.

The North American Model is built around the doctrine of public trust, the use of science to discharge policy, the idea that wildlife belongs to the people. The adoption of the Bear Management plan feels like a crossroads in that conversation. Removal of hunting, essentially, is saying “recruitment isn’t important, science is secondary to public opinion . . . political SCIENCE, social science, those are what we’ll use to discharge policy moving forward.” Given the landscape we exist in, with the myriad of challenges sportsmen face, I’m not sure how there’s a measured approach to this subject that doesn’t include hunting as a management tool, yet portends to imbue the North American Model . . . I struggle daily with the idea that Florida is teetering on the edge of becoming the first state to flip to a European or hierarchical model of wildlife management, one where the game belongs to the land owner and the commoners are excluded from participation without big dollars.

I’ve tried to keep this to three minutes, out of respect for your time and to embody the ideal of what I’d say if I was in Panama City this week . . . So I’ll wrap up with this:

Approve the management plan. Direct staff to begin putting together a bear hunt; it doesn’t have to be rushed, but it does need to be put into motion.

There will be pushback, whatever you decide. My hope is that you’ll look at what Florida is becoming and recognize the shards of alignment with the North American Model and choose the path that lends and extends the most successful wildlife husbandry initiative in human history.

I know these decisions are hard, there’s no scenario in which an ideologically entrenched group is NOT going to be upset. I appreciate you taking the time to read my message, and I appreciate the seriousness and sincerity I know you’ll apply to this situation – I’ve watched the Commission do this for a long time, and I respect the process.

I do not envy sitting on that dais, but I am envious of the opportunity to impact a legacy of Florida conservation and heritage for a very long time.

You have a lot of folks who can’t be in the room who are counting on you.

Sincerely,

Travis Thompson

PS – if you ever want to spend a morning in a public land duck blind, let me know!

PPS – if you’re a podcast listener, I’d recommend you check out Cast and Blast Florida – we’ve done two bear episodes in the past two months that I feel strongly encapsulate both sportsmen’s AND conservationists’ standpoints on bears – here are the links – #6: the Black Bear Roundtable and #10: Clay Newcomb of Bear Hunting Magazine

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