Volunteers Help Protect Fish, Wildlife, and the Environment

NYSCC President Harold Palmer, shaking hands with Governor Pataki and DEC Commissioner Denise Sheehan, at the podium, recently attended a press conference with Governor Pataki to discuss environmental and sportsmen’s issues. Photo by William Schwerd

“Life in the Finger Lakes” is a phrase that may evoke thoughts of family heritage and ways of life handed down from generation to generation, for those living near or visiting this beautiful area.

Helping to ensure that our natural resources are protected, managed and used wisely is a policy that has been handed from generation to generation as well, in an organization called the New York State Conservation Council, Inc. Have you heard of it? What does it do? Is it an agency of New York state? Let me tell you a little about it.

The New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC) is the oldest statewide conservation organization in New York, started in 1933 by sportsmen and conservationists to help safeguard and manage our natural resources and protect the rights of sportsmen/women. This tradition is carried on today, with the continuing endeavors of our volunteers.

Efforts of individuals and organizations interested in conservation and outdoor activities in New York State are coordinated through the NYSCC, to aid in forming and establishing sound policies and practices that will conserve, protect, and perpetuate forests, wildlife, fish, and scenic and recreational areas. These efforts allow present and succeeding generations to continue to enjoy and use these great natural resources.

Through the years, members of the NYSCC have met with the Department of Environmental Conservation(DEC) staff and state and federal legislators to protect our resources. Reducing acid rain is an example of one fight the NYSCC has taken on, resulting so far in our members meeting with President Bush and gaining his support in this effort. We are currently working to get mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants reduced. We have, for years, advised DEC about wise management of New York state’s lands and waters for fish, wildlife and our resources, and will continue to do so.

The NYSCC represents the sportsmen conservationists of the state with special reference to the enforcement of the Conservation Law and the administration of the Conservation Fund. We work to interest and educate the people of New York state with respect to conservation.

Since its inception in 1933, the NYSCC has fought for regulations and laws to protect and manage our resources, especially fish and wildlife. Many of the hunting, fishing, and trapping regulations that we have today are the result of NYSCC members’ efforts. It was some of those early NYSCC members who pushed for the use of bows during big game season. In later years, our members successfully fought for a separate big game season for archers, and today we have a five-week early archery season in the Southern Zone. NYSCC fought for, and was successful in establishing, an early waterfowl and turkey weekend-long season for junior hunters. Our members are currently working to establish an early small-game weekend-long season for junior hunters as well. We will continue to work on legislation that would allow junior hunters the opportunity to hunt big game.

The NYSCC succeeded in getting a law passed which allowed our members to establish the Hunters Helping the Hungry Program, whereby meat from legally harvested deer may be donated to food programs for the needy. Today, the program has moved forward and become the Venison Donation Coalition. The Council also succeeded in getting laws passed to establish the Habitat and Access Stamp, with the money going for habitat and access projects across New York, as well as the Adopt-A-Resource Stewardship Program, whereby a local organization may “adopt” an area to make improvements and provide any needed cleanup.

After the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in New York, the NYSCC intervened to educate the public and hunters by exposing issues of this deadly deer disease. The Council works to secure funding for such projects as state land acquisition, fish hatchery repairs, and CWD testing. Our members have testified before the state legislature in Albany and have traveled as far as Washington, D.C. to get funding for these and other projects.

The NYSCC has various educational programs. We sponsored Teachers’ Education Workshops on conservation education for 25 years. A monthly newsletter is published for members, clubs, and federations, containing pertinent information that includes updates on diseases, invasive species, what’s happening around the state, and national and legislative news about hunting, fishing, trapping, and the environment. At present, members of the NYSCC are teaching the ethics and philosophy of Aldo Leopold to educators, with the hope that they will pass these teachings on to their students.

Our members teach hunter education, sportsmen’s ethics, safe gun handling, marksmanship, archery, trap, skeet, trapping, angling, outdoor safety, and orienteering. We hold fundraisers for the Venison Donation Coalition. We take youth fishing and hunting, and help stock pheasants; some members raise pheasants for stocking as well. NYSCC members help with fish stocking in New York’s lakes and trout streams, and sponsor fishing derbies and clinics for youth.

The NYSCC is not a state agency and does not receive state or federal monies. The organization is run by volunteers from across the state, who are not reimbursed for any expenses incurred while on Council business or activities. There are two full-time paid staff in our Ilion, New York office; these are the only employees of the NYSCC. Our funding comes only from donations, membership dues, and regional fundraisers. The New York State Conservation Council, Inc. is a nonprofit conservation education organization that is tax exempt under section501(c)(3).

This is only a small part of what the NYSCC does. We are involved with almost everything having to do with fish, wildlife, or the environment they live in. For more information about the New York State Conser­vation Council, visit our website at www.nyscc.com or call our office at 315-894-3302.

by Harold L. Palmer, President, New York State Conservation Council Inc.

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