Conservation involves complicated layers that must be navigated. It involves a diverse set of voices, nuanced motivations, and vastly different ideas about the best types of programs and policies. Inevitably, there is a great deal of push and pull and disagreement about the right kinds of decision-making in conservation and what constitutes a morally right way to approach conservation.

Bounties and killing contests occupy a contradictory space in the North American conservation narrative. Predator bounties were responsible for the widespread destruction of species such as wolves and bears across North America over the last couple centuries. At other times, bounties and killing contests are packaged as deliberate conservation initiatives.

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I used to go into the woods and imagine that I was the first to walk on a piece of ground and my footprints were the first to leave their mark. I was drawn to the idea of pristine wilderness.

My imagination was romanced by the possibility that I was the first human to walk or paddle a place. I would see footprints from a past hiker and feel somehow disappointed or cheated and even less satisfied by my experience.

I now find a sense of comfort in old footprints on the trail and am captivated by the stories they contain.

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Among the many things that draw hunters into the field to pursue new species, curiosity is perhaps one of the simplest and most ancient. There is an exciting sense of curiosity that drives hunters to want to continue to experience new landscapes, natural phenomena, and species. While we are certainly driven but such primordial motivations to hunt, we also commonly express less practical, but equally human, reflections about the many considerations that impact our hunting decisions. Are there species we shouldn’t hunt?

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Those of us who have spent a lot of time hunting and fishing come to learn much more about ourselves than our skill as hunters and fishers. The outdoors offers an amphitheater to learn some wonderful things about life that is unmatched in the depth and generosity of the lessons it provides. Hunting has provided me with more opportunities than any other activity in my life to gain perspective about important aspects of life. In an inexplicable way, spending time in the outdoors allows us to develop clarity around the subtleties and finer nuances of the kind of people we want to be, our own values, and key elements of the human experience. Among other things, the outdoors teaches us the value of patience.

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Forgotten gear, soaked clothing, cold hands, even a minor oversight in preparation can turn a backcountry trip uncomfortable. In most cases, discomfort is not life-threatening and a little bit of suffering adds a little poeticism to the story. However, there can be a fine line between the discomfort we come to expect in the backcountry and the kind of discomfort that can eventually distract us from looking for animals, interfere with sleep, and reduce dexterity when it might count the most. So a little extra preparation and a few key clothing tips can go a long way to increase both comfort and effectiveness in the backcountry. Read More

Fishing seems to offer an endless supply of life metaphors. In A Fly Rod of Your Own, the writer John Gierach describes his approach to fishing tackle. Amidst all the shiny new gear and expensive gadgets, he reflects that sometimes everything we need to enjoy a day on the water fits into a pocket or a small tin tackle box. There is certainly a lesson here about happiness in life and this lesson can be learned as effectively out in the woods as anywhere else. Read More

We often assume that if we convince people to care about wildlife they will support conservation. Of course, people are unlikely to support something they don’t feel personally attached to. Unfortunately, simply caring about wildlife does not always lead to positive conservation behaviour or support for policies. So the task is not only to make people care about wildlife but to do so in a way that will inspire them to take action. Read More

Canada has less than two years to meet its target to protect 17% of terrestrial and inland waters and 10% of ocean areas by 2020, commitments made under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Icons of the conservation movement, such as John Muir and Henry David Thoreau, are widely credited for convincing the public to care about protecting natural spaces in the late 1800s. Today, 47 National Parks protect 328 198 square kilometres of land across Canada. Canada also has the longest coastline in the world of over 200 000 kilometres, running through three oceans. Our oceans provide critical habitat for over 40 species of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and polar bears, and dozens of fish species. Marine protected areas are quickly becoming critical conservation tools to protect ocean ecosystems and species.  Read More

There are far too many great outdoors books to keep up with, but I like to do a couple of these posts each year to highlight some of my favourites. Summer is a great time to catch up on novels, and while the two novels in this list are moving pieces of writing, they are not exactly light-hearted. But if you are looking for outdoors books that dig into the depths of human morality and offer vivid descriptions of landscapes, they are wonderful.  Read More

We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. Globally, we are losing species to extinction at a minimum of 1,000 times the natural rate. Half of Canada’s wildlife species have declined since 1970. It is by now beyond debate that humans are impacting the world’s biodiversity, including wildlife at all levels, at a magnitude and rate that has never been seen before in the history of this planet. Academics and social movements have presented compelling arguments to try to convince the public and our political leaders to care about nature. One of these arguments is that humans have a moral obligation to protect wildlife.  Read More