When the Boone and Crockett club formed in 1887, there was no such thing as a wildlife biologist, let alone a discipline of wildlife biology.
Before the creation of the field, the demise of bison (Bison bison) and other large mammals of the West, in the late 19th and early 20th century led Boone and Crockett Club co-founders Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell to organize a movement that got state, provincial and federal governments to take control of the crisis facing wildlife and get legislation passed.
The club founded the Bronx Zoo in the 1890s so that future generations could see the magnificent animals that once roamed the American West. Part of early conservation included slowing the demise of wildlife and hunting in their presumed slide to extinction. This approach, including restrictive laws, seasons and bag limits — coupled with a network of refuge areas — indeed slowed the decline of wildlife.
But early conservationists realized that more had to be done. They recognized that wildlife required more than cataloging and description. Just as these living entities were the victims of human civilization, they required active human intervention to save them. The field needed a professional and scientific society for wildlife biologists. That’s where Boone and Crockett Club member Aldo Leopold came in.
The Wildlife Management Institute enlisted Leopold to lead a team to develop a national policy for game restoration. The ensuing 1930 American Game Policy specified that conservation should be up to wildlife specialists, and the wildlife management profession was born. The policy called for active programs of scientific research to discover causes of wildlife declines and pathways to restoration.
A key outcome of the 1930 policy was The Wildlife Society’s formation in 1937. Until TWS formed, there was no entity to share scientific information or establish ethical standards for the nascent profession.
As the wildlife profession matured through the 20th century into the 21st, wildlife rebounded, and TWS has remained the only professional scientific society solely dedicated to wildlife conservation and management. Its mission is “to inspire, empower, and enable wildlife professionals to sustain wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and conservation.” Many club members have served and led TWS in various capacities during its 80-plus year history. Aldo Leopold served as president of TWS in 1939 to 1940, followed by other Boone and Crockett members including Robert Brown, Wini Kessler, Tom Ryder, Bruce Leopold, Rollie Sparrowe, Thomas Franklin, Alan Wentz and this author — all who remain active club members today.
In a new partnership between TWS and the Boone and Crockett Club, which began in 2018, the two have worked together to expand services and opportunities for students. This past October, at the first-ever joint annual conference of TWS and the American Fisheries Society, more than 4,300 attendees — over 40% of them students — gathered in Reno to share research findings, management successes, professional networks and other activities to advance the profession. Fellows and professors of the Boone and Crockett University Programs presented papers and posters. The club hosted them for an educational luncheon featuring guest speaker Evelyn Merrill, B&C Professional Member and the Canadian section representative to TWS’s governing council. TWS used multiple events and media to acknowledge Boone and Crockett’s support.
The club also sponsored the Student Leaders Luncheon for the second year in a row as well as the student Quiz Bowl. Boone and Crockett Professor Josh Millspaugh spoke to the group about the history of the club as well as the Hunting for Sustainability Program and the University Programs. The B&C booth staffed by Julie Tripp, Justin Spring and Karlie Slayer was one of the most popular at the conference trade show. They were overwhelmed by interested students and professionals alike, and no doubt recruited many associates.
Without question, the future of wildlife conservation is in the hands of students. Will they embrace the club’s ideals and carry on the legacy of our founders? The club’s partnership with TWS to support student engagement and success is a wise investment, yielding dividends for the club, for wildlife, and for future generations who will inherit this rich heritage to use, enjoy and conserve.
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