Pausing to be thankful
As we enjoy the cooler temperatures of autumn and the abundance of the fall hunting seasons, it is a time to reflect on the season, the year and our blessings. For me, the changing season — shorter days and brisk nights — are very welcome. I enjoy the sight and sound of geese winging their way south. The overnight transformation of deer from their summer to winter coats always amazes me. I love the changing color and falling of leaves. The greater visibility in the woods allows me at least a bit more opportunity for a shot at a woodcock, grouse or fall turkey.
The longer nights and shorter days provide time by the fire for sharing warm meals and conversations with family and friends. This is a time of celebration, of Thanksgiving and of Christmas. It is also a time for reflection and gratitude.
As I gather with my family and friends this holiday season, I will give thanks for the many blessings in my life. For health and happiness. For the opportunity to work with incredible people across this great country. And for the great leadership of those who came before me, especially George Thornton and his wife, Beth. They graciously welcomed me into their home, their community and invited me to work for the NWTF. As I look back, I think of the great contributions of so many leaders at all levels and roles in our organization.
We also are blessed to have national leaders who hunt, fish and strongly support conservation in key positions in our federal agencies. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has already passed a number of orders to open up additional federal lands to hunting and public access. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is a turkey hunter who has been strong in his support for active forest management and a much-needed fix to forest fire funding. He has appointed a great new chief of the USDA Forest Service, Tony Tooke. Tony has demonstrated his leadership through spearheading the revised forest planning rule and developing many partnerships to increase active management on our national forests. And Tony is an avid turkey hunter, too.
I am thankful for our incredible staff, who get up every day and work hard to Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. They know we have significant challenges, but they focus on our tremendous opportunities to expand our work across the nation. I’m especially grateful for our invaluable volunteers, who selflessly offer their priceless gifts of time and talent.
As we enter the new year together, we will have many challenges, but we also will have many opportunities. The most recent national survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed a drop of more than 2 million hunters in the last five years. As the baby-boom generation ages, we will see even greater declines. We must redouble our efforts to bring hunters of all ages into the fold. It will take all of our efforts, and the efforts of partner conservation groups and agencies, to be successful.
You will be in my thoughts and prayers this season; I will give thanks for you and your family and friends. May the season bring you love and joy, laughter and fellowship. And may we work together to make 2018 an even greater year than 2017!
— Becky Humphries, NWTF CEO