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(For the week of September 21, 2009)
National Hunting and Fishing Day
by James L. Cummins

On September 26, wildlife enthusiasts will celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day. Over a century ago, hunters and anglers were the first supporters of conservation and wildlife management. They recognized that the rapid development and unregulated uses of wildlife were threatening the future of many species. Laws were needed to restrict the commercial slaughter of wildlife. They urged sustainable use of fish and game, created hunting and fishing licenses, and lobbied for taxes on sporting equipment to provide funds for state conservation agencies. This became the foundation of the North American wildlife conservation model. Because of these efforts, antelope, elk, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, wood ducks and many other species began to recover from years of unregulated exploitation.

In 1970, Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafter created "Outdoor Sportsman's Day" in that state. In early 1972, Congress unanimously passed bills declaring National Hunting and Fishing Day to be held on the fourth Saturday of every September. On May 2, 1972, then President Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day. By late summer, all 50 governors and over 600 mayors had joined in by proclaiming state and local versions of National Hunting and Fishing Day. This special day remains the most effective grassroots effort ever undertaken to promote outdoor sports and conservation.

Time spent outdoors with family and friends is quality time. It provides a stress-free time to "get away from it all." Hunting is the useful wildlife management tool that ensures and maintains the health and abundance of species of game. Outdoor recreation also helps to enhance our appreciation for our natural resources.

Our environment would not be so good and we would not have the opportunity to enjoy hunting and fishing on our public lands were it not for our outstanding Congressional delegation, the Mississippi Legislature, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Mississippi Bureau of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Not to be forgotten are the members, trustees and officers of Wildlife Mississippi who provide the vigilance and leadership to make sure our lands are maintained under sound conservation practices for the benefit of wildlife and wildlife enthusiasts. The most important efforts are from our sportsmen and landowners. They are the best reason of all to celebrate our great National Hunting and Fishing Day.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.