Brian Block: Conservation helped by hunting


Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.

I have an almost unique perspective on the issue of Alachua County conservation lands being opened for hunting. I negotiated the large majority of these lands purchased with Alachua County Forever and Wild Spaces, Public Places voter-approved funds (among other grants which highly leveraged our local dollars).

Furthermore, as a vegan for nearly two decades, and one with a degree in wildlife ecology and conservation (from UF), it would not be surprising that I have deep-seated feelings and informed opinions on this topic.

While I share the sentiments of Cindy Norden of High Springs (Sun, Jan. 27) who contributed a well-worded criticism over this decision, and in my heart wish that humanity was far less violent and that we all had a more well-developed sense of empathy and compassion for other living beings, we have to remember how these programs got funded and what the money is supposed to do.

These programs were carefully advertised to the public, and the public overwhelmingly voted to approve two ballot measures “to acquire, manage and improve environmentally significant lands to protect water resources, wildlife habitat, and to provide natural areas suitable for resource-based recreation.” Exactly what “resource-based recreation” means to me may not perfectly accord with what it means to someone of a different demographic and experience.

The take-home message, as far as I am concerned, is that we were able to protect such a wonderful portfolio of amazing places, and it would be wise to keep all those who voted in favor of these programs happy and feeling like their money was well-spent and that their interests are being represented, or the next time such a ballot measure is proffered to us, it may not enjoy such wide and deep public support.

In fact, opening some (not all) of these lands to this use may garner additional support for public conservation land programs and cut through some of the historical culture clash between the conservation community and recreational hunters, the best of whom are also ardent conservationists.

Lastly, to Jake Fuller in regards to his editorial cartoon: while a common mistake, please understand that Alachua Conservation Trust, a private, 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and Alachua County Forever, the voter-approved county program, are not the same thing, though the people affiliated with each entity often overlap, and partnerships between the two are significant (and highly effective).

Brian Block lives in Gainesville.

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