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

Roots of Conservation Groups – B&C Impact Series

By PJ DelHomme 

Conservation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Achieving grand conservation milestones takes networking, collaboration, patience, and partnerships.


Many Club members have been on the ground floor in the formative days of numerous conservation and environmental organizations that still exist today. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of the groups that the Club has helped to get off the ground, it does provide some insight into the far-reaching influence that past and current members have on the community dedicated to the wildlife and wild places we cherish.

New York Zoological Society (1895) and Wildlife Conservation Society (1993) 

In 1895, just eight years after Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell founded the Boone and Crockett Club, a handful of influential Club members made it their mission to bring a zoo to New York City. Member William Hornaday had already worked to establish a National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in 1889, and Club member Madison Grant had a new idea about what a zoo should be. To accomplish this, Club members founded the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) in 1895.

Grant’s vision for a zoo in New York City would eventually become a model for future zoos worldwide. The ‘“new” zoo would allow animals more room to roam so they could interact with one another. In addition, his vision introduced the masses to game preservation and emphasized the habitat in which those species dwelled. The zoo opened in November 1899, featuring 843 animals, with 157 species from around the world—and the atmosphere was a wholly unique experience. 


Arrival at the Bronx Zoo of an anaconda from South America, 1912.

Of the many notable features of the zoo, the Boone and Crockett Club’s National Collection of Heads of Horns was a unique and popular attraction. Spearheaded by Club member William Hornaday, the National Collection was opened in 1922 and housed 850 animal specimens from around the globe. Today, the collection is housed at the Johnny Morris' Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri. 

Throughout the 1900s, the NYZS established itself as a leader in international conservation. One early project included analyzing whaling logs to map the seasonal migrations of whales. The group sponsored ecological studies of mountain gorillas in East Africa, and its scientists traveled to China to observe and study the giant panda. To reflect its growing research worldwide, the NYZS officially changed its name to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in 1993. Today, the WCS has expanded into 60 countries, working on projects ranging from restoring the Magdalena River Turtle in Colombia to caribou and migratory waterfowl conservation in Alaska. 

National Audubon Society (1905)

High fashion for ladies of the late 1800s dictated they wear corsets, dresses that resembled dining room curtains, and hats adorned with exotic feathers. It’s that last fashion trend that wiped out numerous bird species and rallied men and women to end the wholesale slaughter of birds in North America. 

Boone and Crockett Club founder George Bird Grinnell created an Audubon Society in 1886 dedicated to protecting birds, but it was dissolved shortly after that. In 1896, Harriet Hemenway and Minna B. Hall formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society, encouraging ladies to boycott using feathers as fashion pieces. Other state-level Audubon Societies formed from New York to California. 

The founder of the North Carolina Audubon Society was Club member T. Gilbert Pearson. He launched a campaign to establish game laws and protect nongame birds. When a wealthy New Yorker planned to donate substantial money to a “national action organization” for  wildlife conservation, Pearson accepted the post as secretary for the National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals. The name has since been shortened to National Audubon Society

Serving alongside Pearson as the national organization’s treasurer was Boone and Crockett Member Frank M. Chapman. In 1895, he published the Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America, influencing many, including explorer and Club member Roy Chapman Andrews. In 1900, Frank Chapman initiated the first Christmas Bird Count, an all-volunteer holiday bird count held by the National Audubon Society each year and a great example of citizen science

The National Audubon Society today claims more than 500 local chapters nationwide and nearly two million bird-loving members. From the early days of working to establish Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge to helping protect fragile nesting sites and habitat for migratory bird species today, the National Audubon Society continues to build upon the foundation built by people like Frank Chapman and Gilbert Pearson. 


Pelican Island may not look like much from the air, but if you're a brown pelican, it means the world to you as a safe place to nest and raise your young.  In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an Executive Order creating the Pelican Island Reservation and shortly thereafter appointed Paul Kroegel as its warden, pictured at the far left.

Wildlife Management Institute (1911) 

The Wildlife Management Institute was initially called the American Game Protective and Propagation Association (AGPPA). While this group doesn’t host a massive membership of hunters and anglers, anyone who has ever hunted should know how this group of wildlife professionals worked (and still work) to improve wildlife management across North America. 

In 1911, B&C Club members were approached by H. S. Leonard, a representative of Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Concerned about the decline of game birds and mammals, he gathered financial pledges of support from other firearms and ammunition manufacturers. The result was the establishment of the AGPPA. At the helm was longtime Club member and chief game warden of New York State John B. Burnham. The group was instrumental in working to pass the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which protected migratory bird species from extermination. 


In 1935, the group held its first North American Wildlife Conference, the premier gathering of senior policy makers from state and federal agencies as well as non-profit groups. The Club has long supported the conference. Over the years, the conference has spawned numerous non-profits, including the National Wildlife Federation, which is featured a couple groups down this list. 

The AGPPA underwent numerous name changes and became the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) in 1946. The WMI was instrumental in establishing the Cooperative Wildlife Research Units and has focused on maintaining and improving wildlife populations. Representatives of the WMI advise and educate on wildlife-related issues, covering everything from chronic wasting disease to grizzly bear management. While no longer funded by industry, the WMI ensures there will always be game and fowl on the landscape. 

Save the Redwoods League (1917) 

In 1917, Boone and Crockett member Stephen Mather was the first director of the National Park Service. He asked fellow Boone and Crockett members Madison Grant, Dr. John C. Merriam, and Henry Fairfield Osborn to take a road trip to “visit virtually every single grove of importance,” wrote Grant. Along the way, they witnessed first-hand the logging operations adjacent to the highway. The entourage returned from the trip vowing to save what remained of California’s coastal redwoods.


The first memorial grove was established in honor of Colonel Raynal C. Bolling, commemorating the first American Army officer of high rank to fall in World War I. The grove includes redwood forest on the South Fork of the Eel River. Grant is pictured second from the left.

The trio formed the Save the Redwoods League. At the time, the goal was to raise money to buy back redwood groves that logging companies had purchased only a few years prior. Because redwoods tend to grow in groves or clusters, the League used this unique trait to their fundraising advantage. They established over 1,000 memorial redwood groves in which donors could dedicate a grove by contributing money to the conservation of the redwoods. The League established these memorial groves in over 30 of California's redwood parks. According to its website, the League has protected over 216,000 acres of redwood forests and helped create 66 redwood parks and reserves in just over a century. 

The Wilderness Society (1935)

In the early 1900s, a few folks wondered if development would invade every square mile of forest, mountain, and prairie. Aldo Leopold and Robert Marshall were among them. Leopold became a Boone and Crocket Club member in 1923. That same year, he proposed setting aside more than half a million acres on the Gila River in southwest New Mexico. At first, his proposal was voted down. Some said it would “lock up” resources. Others claimed it would only be a place for the rich and entitled. His proposal for the nation’s first conceptual wilderness area was approved two years later. 


Member and Congressman John P. Saylor enjoying a horseback ride.

Leopold’s notion of setting aside areas from development and resource extraction was unprecedented, and men like Arthur Carhart and Boone and Crockett member Robert Marshall wanted to see more done. Leopold, Marshall, and six others formed the Wilderness Society in 1935. One of the group’s first big wins was to prevent the construction of Echo Park Dam inside the boundaries of Dinosaur National Monument. The Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser wrote numerous drafts of the Wilderness Act, which was finally signed into law in 1964 thanks to the efforts of Congressman John P. Saylor, a Club member and Republican Member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. Since its inception, the Wilderness Society has worked alongside other groups to help establish 111 million acres of wilderness. 


The Iowa Digital Library has over 11,000 cartoons by Ding Darling in their online collection.

National Wildlife Federation (1937)

Boone and Crockett member J.N. “Ding” Darling was a political cartoonist by trade, and he turned his skill toward wildlife conservation after several years in the print news industry.  Darling was also a master organizer and peacemaker, not to mention a passionate conservationist. He was head of the U.S. Biological Survey (now USFWS) in 1934 and held a fundraising dinner in New York City, to which he invited representatives of firearms and ammunition companies. 

That meeting spawned numerous ideas, including creating the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit Program (see WMI above) and the need to organize more than 6,000 hunting and conservation clubs across the country. Darling pitched his vision to incorporate those clubs under one national umbrella at the first North American Wildlife Conference in 1935. Five months later, 25 states consolidated their clubs under one state federation. Fifteen other states already had state organizations. Those state federations joined to be affiliates of what became the National Wildlife Federation. Darling came out of retirement to serve as the new organization's first president. 

The Nature Conservancy (1950) 

Richard Pough was a busy man in 1950. That year he became a Boone and Crockett Club member and founding president of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). As an engineer, Pough started his professional career in Port Arthur, Texas. It was here that he surveyed bird migrations along the Gulf Coast. That hobby became a job at the National Audubon Society, where he documented rare birds like the ivory-billed woodpecker. In 1950, he and a handful of scientists founded TNC. 
Today, The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation powerhouse. With over a million members, they employ more than 400 scientists and work in 76 countries. All told, TNC has protected more than 125 million acres worldwide.

Conservation efforts by groups like The Nature Conservancy, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and others enhance and set aside vital habitat for wildlife, which is essential for thriving wildlife populations that produce outstanding trophies like this World's Record bighorn from Montana. 

Wild Sheep Foundation (1974) 

In the early 1970s, a group of devoted sheep hunters began to discuss the future of wild sheep in North America. They organized a conference at the University of Montana, and it was co-sponsored by the Boone and Crockett Club, National Audubon Society, and Wildlife Management Institute. Boone and Crockett Club members John H. Batten and Dr. Valerius Geist were among those presenting. That landmark meeting of 77 hunters, wildlife managers, and biologists spawned two important milestones. 


The first is a 300-page book, The Wild Sheep in Modern North America, that would serve as a starting point and baseline for their future sheep restoration efforts. The other outcome of the meeting was the eventual formation of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) in 1977. Early presidents of the organization included Club members Dr. James H. Duke Jr. and Daniel Pedrotti. In 2008, FNAWS formally changed its name to the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF).

Since its formation, WSF has raised and distributed over $140 million for wild sheep conservation and restoration efforts across North America. The group claims more than 10,500 members, and it is currently expanding its conservation efforts in partnership with First Nations and Native American conservationists, as well as a focus on international sheep and goat populations in central Asia. 

Partnerships and Collaboration in the 21st Century 

Each organization in this list was founded not to solve a problem but to build upon a foundation in conservation. Collaboration was the key to achieving their individual missions. That same drive exists today. Together, these groups represent and engage millions of members, and lawmakers cannot ignore their collective voice. 

The AWCP held their 2021 meeting at the Boone and Crockett Club Headquarters, where the concept for the new consortium was conceived in 2000.

To help create a more unified voice in conservation, in August 2000, the Boone and Crockett Club organized a summit in Missoula, Montana, with representatives from 35 of the nation’s leading wildlife conservation organizations. The goal was to unite groups representing hunter-conservationists, professional wildlife and natural resource managers, outdoor recreation users, conservation educators, and wildlife scientists. They called it the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP).


Today, the AWCP is a collaborative partnership with nearly 50 conservation, shooting, and hunting organizations, representing millions of outdoor participants. Many of these organizations are run by professional members of the Boone and Crockett Club. Since that initial meeting in 2000, the AWCP has published six volumes of Wildlife for the 21st Century, the most recent in July 2020, and last year published a mid-term report documenting progress made on the recommendations from Volume 6. Presented to the lawmakers of each new presidential administration and members of Congress, these volumes represent the collective goals and recommendations on conservation funding, access and management of federal lands, and big game migration corridors. These volumes integrate wildlife goals into energy planning, private land and species conservation, wildlife disease management, and habitat conservation in a changing climate. The Club remains at the center of this ecosystem of organizations and plays an integral role in bringing the community together around our shared vision for North American wildlife conservation. 

About the Impact Series

The Impact Series is dedicated to showing how sportsmen, members of the Boone and Crockett Club in particular, saved the wildlife and wild places of the United States. Early members of the Boone and Crockett Club comprised the movers, shakers, and initiators of the American conservation movement. They were hunters, anglers, explorers, lawmakers, soldiers, and above all conservationists. These members established laws that allowed our wildlife resources to flourish. They also protected landscape-scale geologic marvels and American icons like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Denali, and many, many more. These members may no longer be with us, but their legacy remains. This series aims to honor their accomplishments and remind us of the good work still yet to do.

PJ DelHomme writes and edits content from his home in western Montana. He runs Crazy Canyon Media and Crazy Canyon Journal.  


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

-Theodore Roosevelt