To the Adult Advisors and Youth of North Dakota:
Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, and the conservation movement in the United States all share a common heritage that dates back more than 100 years. Many of the men and women who founded the Scouting movement such as Lord Baden-Powell, William Boyce, Daniel Beard, Ernest Thompson Seton, Juliette Gordon Low, and Lou Henry Hoover were also active supporters of wildlife conservation. They were also all hunters; in fact the original edition of “A Handbook of Woodcraft, Scouting, and Life-craft” by Ernest Thompson Seton and Robert Baden-Powell contained a section on “Big-game Hunting.” Furthermore, Ernest Thompson Seton visited, and William Boyce lived in North Dakota!
A.B. Graham founded the 4-H program in the United States during this same time period. At the time it was recognized that rural youth needed a better education in modern farming, land stewardship, and an appreciation of the natural world. Today’s 4-H program not only encompasses the traditional agricultural programs, but also a number of outdoor and conservation programs.
The iconic conservation figure of that time, however, was Theodore Roosevelt; another former North Dakota resident. This multifaceted man embodied the values of the modern conservation movement and set down many of the guiding principles that are now referred to as the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.” Although out of office by the time Boy Scouts of America was established in 1910, Mr. Roosevelt was such an ardent supporter of Scouting that he was the first and only man designated as the “Chief Scout Citizen.”
Youth today need benchmarks to measure themselves. What better yardstick could we find than Theodore Roosevelt for 4-H, Scouting and wildlife conservation? With our shared and intertwining histories, it seems fitting that youth groups and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department should reaffirm our shared core values and develop new partnerships. We believe 4-H’ers, Scouts, and wildlife conservation organizations can all benefit from a focused effort and shared resources.
Hunting is integral to modern wildlife management and was formative to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. To be a responsible hunter in the 21st century does not simply involve being able to accurately shoot a gun or a bow. A hunter must be well informed, aware of the principles of wildlife management, and hold and value a strong conservation ethic. Responsible hunters take efforts to understand the biology of the animal, use a compass, read a map, be in good physical condition, and be able to handle themselves under a variety of weather conditions in the outdoors. Finally they must value all wildlife as a public trust resource and understand their obligations to the perpetuation of these resources as a citizen of the United States and the world. Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, and 4-H clubs all offer the opportunity for youth to develop and hone all of these skills and core values.
To help forge new partnerships with youth groups, we are offering a new TR Award for 4-H’ers, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts to earn that encompasses many of the virtues and skills Theodore Roosevelt embodied. They include: development of a healthy mind and body, good citizenship, a strong conservation ethic, an understanding of the natural history of land around us, and the ability to handle oneself in the wild and engage in the joys of a strenuous life. It should be understood by all that earning this award will not be easy. As Roosevelt said, “Life is not easy, and least of all is it easy for either the man or the nation that aspires to do great deeds.”
October 27, 2008 marks the 150-year anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s birth. We believe it would be a wonderful tribute to honor this man who has given us so much, with a program that passes his conservation legacy on to the next generation. Our youth and our natural resources deserve our best efforts.
Terry Steinwand, Director
North Dakota Game and Fish Department