Wisconsin will join America in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first National Hunting and Fishing Day this Saturday, Sept. 24, a day set aside to recognize that virtually every species of wildlife benefit from the programs supported and financed by hunters and anglers.

Thanks to community-minded business owners who support conservation as much as those who hunt and fish, we were able to again publish a two-page Outdoors spread in observance of America’s “first environmentalists.”

We couldn’t put one of the state’s largest hunter/angler newspaper salutes together without those supporters, and they are in good company. Major sponsors partnering with the National Shooting Sports Foundation for this cause include Ducks Unlimited (DU), National Wild Turkey Federation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, industry leaders in North American conservation efforts.

DU has made it known for years that more than 97% of its membership base are duck hunters. And the organization’s legacy is that since 1937, they have conserved more than 16 million acres of wetland marsh. Besides ducks and geese, that preservation effort has benefited an estimated 900 species of wildlife.

This newspaper is a huge supporter of these outdoor sports for many reasons, not the least of which is their importance to the state’s outdoor traditions. Then there is the tourism industry, and the fact that Vilas, Oneida and Forest counties are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of inland lakes and massive county, state and national forests.

People who hunt and fish have been drawn to Wisconsin’s North Woods since the first railroads and highways were constructed. Many with a passion for these sports have invested in our communities and created a life here, bringing light industry and commerce to a remote recreational area.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been done every five years since 1955, more than 101 million Americans participated in some form of fishing, hunting or other wildlife-associated recreation, including bird-watching and outdoor photography. That represents a staggering 40% of the U.S. population.

In Wisconsin, 6 million acres of public lands are managed for all residents by county, local, federal and state officials. And 60% of state residents rely on public lands and waters when participating in their favorite sports.

Sports-men and -women are funding more projects every year that enable more public access areas to be open. Through excise taxes on equipment, hunters and anglers have contributed nearly $30 billion for fish and wildlife conservation programs since 1952.

That’s the legacy of conservation that we will be celebrating Saturday. It’s about spreading the word on conservation and reminding the country once again that hunters and anglers are the backbone of it all.

Behind the editorial ‘we’

  Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Michelle Drew and reporter Doug Etten.