By John Bradley
The day was warm with beautiful clear skies and light wind, the perfect conditions to slip away from the office for an afternoon of fishing. It was my first trip out on the water after a long, cold spring. On the drive to the lake my friend and I sharpened our game eyes by calling out roosters on the side of road, whitetails on the hillsides and even a fox kit peeking out of its den. We marveled at the thought that these animals could survive over 6 months of harsh winter, especially the winter we just had. We patiently waited at the ramp and then launched our boat with eager anticipation of the afternoon ahead.
It didn’t take long to connect with the first walleye of the year – a good eater that took the minnow-tipped jig with authority. A few hours later, with a rooster cackling in the distance, we put the last walleye in the livewell and headed back with our limits. It was an incredible day focused on North Dakota’s rich bounty of fish and wildlife. On the drive home it would have been easy enough to take for granted all the work that goes into maintaining abundant fish and wildlife populations here in North Dakota. From keeping quality habitat on the landscape to preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species, it’s our responsibility as hunters, anglers, and volunteer conservationists to work together to conserve and protect these incredibly rich and diverse wildlife populations and habitats. Thankfully, North Dakota has numerous conservation and wildlife groups working on a variety of issues that they are passionate about with the goal of ensuring future generations the same abundant hunting, angling, and other outdoor opportunities that we are blessed with.
One reason why the North Dakota Wildlife Federation was created 80 years ago was to bring together the many organizations working on conservation issues. Our founders realized that rod and gun clubs, birdwatching groups, garden clubs, and agricultural associations could accomplish more together than in isolation. Over time, we built powerful alliances to protect the lands, waters, and wildlife that support hunting, fishing, trapping, birdwatching, and every other outdoor activity. Bringing different voices together remains a core value for NDWF. Today, there are more organizations than ever working on wildlife, habitat, and access issues in North Dakota. Some groups focus on specific species; some are statewide and some are local; some work on private land, others focus on public; some work at the Legislature; and others work on the ground. This diversity of efforts gives more opportunities for people to get involved in conservation. It also increases the need for us to work together. In these challenging times, we need a big tent filled with the different voices who are not only concerned about but also committed to improving North Dakota’s habitat, wildlife, and outdoor heritage.
On your next drive to the water or on your way to deer camp this autumn, think about what it takes to protect the things we love. I hope you find that clean air and water, quality habitat, abundant fish, game and wildlife are things that can unite us all. Whether your passion is trailing your trusty bird dog in the fall or setting the hook on one of North Dakota’s many game fish, there is an organization in North Dakota for you. If you are already involved, thank you! If you are looking to get started, there are plenty of groups who share your passion and would appreciate your support. A strong conservation community will help North Dakota protect its hunting, fishing, and outdoor heritage for future generations. Now that is something that we can all get behind!
John Bradley is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation and a Dakota Edge Outdoors Contributing Writer.
Featured Photo: The author with a spring walleye from the Missouri River system. DEO Photo by John Bradley.