By Brandon Butler
Right now, without looking it up, do you know who your state representative is? How about your state senator?
Not federal. Not the polished politicians you sometimes catch a glimpse of on CNN or read about in your statewide newspapers. I’m talking about your local elected representation in the Indiana State Legislature.
If you answered no, don’t beat yourself up too bad. Very few people know. But that needs to change. And you need to help.
How many more times are you going to read about the pre-rut, post-spawn, the trout opener, hunting mushrooms and other annual topics before you start digging into the politics of how we maintain such privileges?
There is a whole underworld of conservation policy you should be aware of. You should feel somewhat responsible for educating yourself about the often unbelievable attempts by your state legislature to cripple conservation efforts and natural resources protection.
I mean, you love the outdoor opportunities available to you because of the efforts of dedicated conservationists who came before us; those responsible for the restoration of water resources and our all but extirpated regional wildlife species — deer, turkey, bear and more. But are you doing your part? What’s keeping you from stepping up and having your voice heard?
You need to be engaging in the politics of conservation for your own interests, but also for future generations of anglers and hunters. Your voice is powerful. As an in-district voter, your elected representation had better pay attention to you, or they won’t be around long.
You need to make sure they understand the importance of political support for conservation, including funding and public land access, to ensure healthy game and fish populations to pursue, and adequate lands on which to make those pursuits.
So how do you keep up with under-reported state politics? Well, the wrong place to turn for political insight is the agency managing fish and wildlife in your state. While these departments do wonderful work, their leaders are bureaucrats tied to administrations. In almost every state, they’re riding high at the pleasure of the governor. For them, rocking the boat isn’t an option.
Thankfully, most states have nonprofit conservation organizations working outside the bounds of government to benefit conservation and natural resources through efforts as diverse as toiling in the dirt to taking on bad policy. In Indiana, that organization is the Indiana Wildlife Federation (IWF).
The mission of the IWF is “To promote the conservation, sound management, and sustainable use of Indiana’s wildlife and wildlife habitat through education, advocacy, and action.”
The IWF is not a part of state government or an entity of a public agency. It is a private, nonprofit organization made up of thousands of Hoosiers who work together to better our natural resources and represent Indiana’s citizen conservationists.
Actively involved in state and national issues that relate to conservation, the federation has long been a prominent and effective voice before the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The members of IWF are the conscience of Hoosier hunters, fishermen, foresters, campers, trappers, hikers, paddlers, birdwatchers and more. IWF speaks for sportsmen and sportswomen whenever and wherever it is necessary, to support our collective opinions on the future of Indiana outdoors.
Please, do your part to help protect conservation. Consider joining the Indiana Wildlife Federation and becoming a more engaged citizen. They already are working for you, but IWF needs your financial support to sustain the fight. Check them out online at www.indianawildlife.org.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.