By John Bradley
There’s a Guy Clark song called “Stuff That Works” that has been stuck in my head for weeks. The refrain is: “Stuff that works, stuff that holds up. The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall.”
While he sings about his old guitar, his old blue shirt, his old boots, and an old friend, every time I hear it, I think about how an old gun could easily fit into one of those verses. The fading blue of the barrel, the worn, scratched wooden stock and the familiar feel when shouldering it would all paint a vivid picture in any hunter’s head. For me, the vivid picture is of a Remington Model 11.
I can still remember when I got to upgrade from a youth 20-gauge pump to my grandpa’s old 20 gauge. He picked the gun up at an estate sale for less than 100 dollars. I can imagine the original owner of the gun rolling in his grave when he found out his wife sold his guns at such a steep discount. It was duck opener in Minnesota, my dad and I were set up on the edge of a beaver pond that was known for holding wood ducks. After the morning flight, I had only a few shells left from my box of 25 and a couple of wood ducks. I don’t think a 14-year-old kid could be happier.
The Remington Model 11 that I was excited to have was the same style humpback shotgun that my grandpa was shooting. He of course had a Browning A5, but John Browning designed both guns. While his A5 was made in Belgium, the Model 11 was America’s first autoloader. That gun was my companion throughout my teens during hunting season. Countless grouse, pheasants, ducks, and even an unlucky turkey were taken with that gun. Despite the gun being nearly 80 years old, it has never failed to cycle a round. That’s stuff that works.
Over the course of that gun’s life, it has seen the conservation story in North America unfold. It saw the aftermath of market hunting, robber barons, and industrialized farming, where game was scarce and hunters were lucky to see a deer, let alone shoot one. Fortunately, it also saw game populations rebound from dedicated funding and protection of wildlife habitat. Whether it was through the Pittman-Robertson excise tax, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), or Conservation Reserve Program in the Farm Bill, dedicated funding for wildlife habitat has been a proven way to restore wildlife populations, and boost game and fish populations. That’s stuff that works.
The passage of the NAWCA in 1989 and President George H.W. Bush’s No Net Loss policy have been credited with helping reverse the decline in U.S. wetlands and wetland bird species. Yet no such initiative exists for grasslands. America’s native grasslands are disappearing. This is causing population crashes for many species dependent on grasslands. To help remedy this, conservation groups are promoting the North American Grasslands Conservation Act. This bill would create a 200 million dollar per year program, similar to the proven NAWCA, which has helped waterfowl and numerous shore birds rebound.
The North American Grasslands Conservation Act that would help prevent additional loss of native grasslands, support ranchers and working grasslands, improve grassland health, enhance habitat for grassland birds, pollinators, and other grassland-dependent wildlife.
If the North America Wetlands Conservation Act is the Browning A5, then the North American Grasslands Conservation Act can be the Remington Model 11. A reliable copy with a proven track record for success. If we can pass the North American Grasslands Conservation Act, we can secure funding for prairie habitat and turn the tide on the disappearance of grasslands. If we succeed, maybe that old Model 11 will be able to continue to knock down ducks, pheasants, and grouse for another 80 years. Afterall, that gun is the kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall.
More information on the North American Grasslands Act can be found at https://actforgrasslands.org/
John Bradley is a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributing writer and the Executive Director of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Featured Photo: That’ll Work. Like the history of a favorite firearm such as the author’s Remington Model 11, conservation programs are surefire means which work to sustain game and nongame species and provide hunting opportunities across the country. DEO Photo by John Bradley.