The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

Conservation had a beginning. It has no end.

Q: Is it possible that one small group of sportsmen was able to establish American Conservation?

A: It is, if you have the right people working together in the right places at the right time with vision and commitment. It also helps if this same group has been on point for the past 130 years and focused on laws and policies that allow conservation to happen.



The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, Sportsmen, and the Boone and Crockett Club.

Natural resources, including wildlife represent the health and wealth of a country and its people. We are fortunate in North America to have a proven system that not only recognizes these values, but also provides for and directs the proper use and management of these resources.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is anchored by a Supreme Court decision that decreed that wildlife was common to all and belongs to the people, and not government, corporations or individuals. It represents how "we as the people" view these natural resources and directs how this natural resource is to be used and managed under sustainable guidelines for the betterment of wildlife and people. It is the reason why we still have abundant, wildlife populations in the U.S. and Canada and the opportunity to freely hunt, fish or enjoy this wildlife each in our own way.

The Model is guided by seven principles. It developed overtime out of necessity to reverse the negative affects from the unregulated over harvesting of many species of wildlife and early attitudes that these resources where there for the taking and inexhaustible. Sportsmen and women, lead by the efforts of the Boone and Crockett Club and its members helped to either establish, popularize, mobilize support for, and/or defend each of these guiding principles over the past 130 years. The results are unprecedented in the history of mankind.

In the Public Trust – Wildlife belongs to the people and is to be managed in trust for the people by government agencies.

The notion of public ownership of wildlife is an ancient concept, dating back to Roman times, but this idea was reinterpreted on European soil, where often times noblemen were the “public” and owned all the lands - and the wildlife on them. Under these circumstances the common man often had no access to these resources. Killing a deer was considered theft, and the consequences were severe. Such dogma and exclusivity were what many considered tyranny and a prime example of the ideology that led to a mass exodus from Europe to the New World, and the freedom to prosper through self-reliance, including the right to fish and hunt.

With a country of their own, America’s lawmakers through a Supreme Court decision established public ownership of wildlife as law. Titled the Public Trust Doctrine, this principle is the very essence and foundation of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.  It would ultimately expand to link funding of wildlife management to consumptive, public users, principally hunters and anglers.

Early in American history, it became clear that the responsibilities guaranteed by the Public Trust Doctrine were too great for the citizens alone to properly manage. Left to their own devices, the public would come to decimate many species of wildlife and permanently eliminate several from the American landscape. This experience made it clear that if the public ownership of wildlife was to be protected, institutions and laws would be required to safeguard wildlife for the common good.

Many of the Boone and Crockett Club’s early efforts were focused on awakening the people to the plight of their wildlife resources, and that these resources did indeed belong to them, and were in their care. These efforts were in concert with the conservation laws the Club and its members were proposing to aid in the recovery and protection of wildlife. Once the public realized it was their wildlife being irresponsibly eliminated, their outcry was so great that the conservation legislation the Club and others were proposing began passing with ease.

Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife – It will be illegal to sell the meat of any wild animal in North America.

Of paramount significance to the early destruction of North American wildlife was its commercial value and sale, which went against the very grain of the Public Trust Doctrine itself. The Doctrine was being misinterpreted and abused, and the government would have to step in to set limits on the scope of what it meant for the public to “own” wildlife.  It was critical to establish that the taking of wildlife was to be for personal use, including to feed one’s own family; and to put an end to the sale of dead wildlife in whole or in parts, for profit.

It was for this reason, that the Boone and Crockett Club’s early efforts were focused on awakening the people to the plight of their wildlife and raising awareness that these resources, which were held in the public trust, were not inexhaustible. These efforts were in concert with the first conservation laws, beginning with the passing of the Lacey Acts of 1900 and 1907, proposed by Boone and Crockett Club member John F. Lacey of Iowa. These laws banned the interstate shipment of wild birds and mammals and their products, which effectively put an end to the business of commercial market hunting amd allowed our wildlife populations to recover and flourish.

Allocation of Wildlife is by Law – Laws developed by the people and enforced by government agencies will regulate the proper use of wildlife resources.

The mere presence of man on the landscape can negatively affect wildlife and the habitats that support them. The rule of law instead of the rule of chance will be used to govern the appropriate use of these wildlife resources.

The Boone and Crockett Club proposed laws and rallied public support for these new rules of order. The Club helped establish government agencies like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife and National Forest Services that were needed to oversee the proper execution and enforcement of these laws. The Club’s Fair Chase statement also became the cornerstone for game laws established by the states.

Opportunity for All – Every citizen has the freedom to hunt and fish.

Public access to wildlife, regardless of social or economic status, including hunting, fishing, and trapping is a right of citizenship. It is also fundamental to conservation because people will value what they have access to, and what has no value becomes neglected. This access fosters individual stewardship and provides the funding necessary to properly manage wildlife resources in a sustainable manner.

Boone and Crockett Club founder, Theodore Roosevelt believed strongly in wise-use conservation and fought aggressively against preservationist, or non-use proposals. The Club also believed that those who use the resource should pay for its care and maintenance. The Club lobbied for the laws and institutions that provided this funding, including a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition and the federal Duck Stamp program. Sportsmen and sportswomen subsequently stepped forward and gladly accepted their role in funding conservation

Non-frivolous Use – In North America we can legally kill certain wildlife for legitimate purposes under strict guidelines for food and fur, in self-defense, or property protection. Laws are in place to restrict casual killing, killing for commercial purposes, wasting of game, and mistreating wildlife.

The rules of proper use, both in written law and personal ethics, did not exist in commercial market and sustenance hunting cultures. As these activities faded, what remained was recreational hunting. What separated a true sportsman from market gunners was an ethical code of personal conduct that was defined and promoted by the Boone and Crockett Club. These same tenets of Fair Chase were used as the cornerstone of modern-day game laws. Club member, Aldo Leopold is credited with framing the concept of a land ethic and managing entire biotic communities rather than one species of wildlife or individuals within a given population. Non-frivolous use set a tone of respect for wildlife and paved the way for it to be managed under the knowledge of science rather than opinion, conjecture, or personal gain.

International Resources – Because wildlife and fish freely migrate across boundaries between states, provinces, and countries they are considered an international resource.

The proper management of certain species of migrating wildlife is to be managed by international treaties and laws.

Sportsmen where among the first to recognize the need for international treaties and laws to save what was left of decimated waterfowl populations.  Wildfowl that nested in Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48 States, and then migrated as far south as Mexico, could only be saved if restrictions to the loss of their wetland nesting habitats and their hunting did not reach across international boundaries.  The Boone and Crockett Club responded with the establishment of the National Wildlife Refuge system (1903) and the passage of the Migratory Bird Act of 1913 & 1917, the Reclamation Act of 1902, and the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929, all ofd which contributed to the recovery and future prosperity of migratory species.

Managed by Science – The best science available will be used as a base for informed decision-making in wildlife management.

The intricate nature of ecosystems and biotic communities, of which all wildlife and man belong, will be managed under the knowledge of science rather than opinion, or conjecture.

Boone and Crockett Club founder, Theodore Roosevelt was a strong advocate of science, and that only the best science available was to be used to make critical decisions on natural resource management. This concept of informed by sceince would latter be called the Roosevelt Doctrine. The Club began by providing seed money for some of the first wildlife research projects. Under the leadership of member, Aldo Leopold the Club began formulating flexible scientific management policies for wildlife and natural resources to achieve an ecological balance. The Club also called for the first President’s Conference on Outdoor Recreation in 1924, which lead to the establishment of the National Recreation Policy, which coordinated resource management at federal, state, and local levels.

Watch this excerpt from Boone and Crockett Country to learn more about the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and its importance to your hunting heritage.


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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt